Schmigadoon! behind the curtain – secrets from the new musical series

We chat to a wealth of stars from the new series

Ariana DeBose, Keegan-Michael Key, Cecily Strong and Jaime Camil
Ariana DeBose, Keegan-Michael Key, Cecily Strong and Jaime Camil
© Apple TV
Musical theatre fan? Well guess what, your favourite series of the year may have arrived.

Schmigadoon!, a whip-sharp send-up of the golden age of musicals, has dropped on Apple TV and it is a bundle of fun. The six-part series follows a fractious couple that stumble upon a village (the titular Schmigadoon) where everyone seems to spontaneously burst into song (you can watch a couple of clips below). They can't leave, magical forces decree, until they each find true love.

It's a delightful nugget of a series and the perfect tonic as theatre gets back on its feet (read our full review here). So far four episodes have arrived, with parodies of The Sound of Music, Carousel and oodles more on offer.

Weeks back we sat down with writer Cinco Paul, producer and star (plus SNL regular) Cecily Strong, plus director Barry Sonnenfeld (the genius behind Men In Black, Pushing Daisies and more) as they geared up to unveil the stagey bonanza.

Strong admits that, despite the incredible choreography present, rehearsals for the series were often done in isolation. Strong explains: "We didn't get to rehearse all that much together – it's a testament to how much that we loved doing this that we'd rehearse for two weeks in a hotel room so we could show up on the day and have it down perfectly."

Paul has been cultivating the show for decades – and it has now arrived "like a fine wine that has found its time", he explains: "The initial concept was two friends stumbling into town – like Brigadoon meets An American Werewolf in London. But making it a couple really unlocked the piece."

As in turns out, there were a fair few numbers that didn't make the cut – Paul remembers a version of "We Kiss In The Shadows" from The King and I, reinterpreted as "We Neck in the Basement" – though that sadly ended up on the cutting room floor. He adds that "the process is a fine line: we want to parody these shows, but in a loving way." A version of "Do-Re-Mi", re-interpreted as "Va-Gi-Na", is as instructional as it is hilarious.

Was there one number Sonnenfeld (famously a musical skeptic!) is particularly proud of? The director remembers choreographing and planning a logistically challenging showstopper coming in the final episode: "I definitely wanted to do Kristin Chenoweth's "Tribulation" in one take, for four minutes. That meant having a steadicam operator, following her around, sometimes leaving her, sometimes catching up with her. As we got nearer towards the end of the four minutes, the tension on the set kept rising and rising – it ends with a huge banner being dropped and balloons falling from the ceiling.

"We look at all four sides of our set during the number – so there was nowhere to hide the lighting. So we had a separate choreography of dimming and brightening lights. It was a ballet between her, the ensemble, the steadicam operator Jim and Todd the cinematographer, who was conducting all the lights. Kristen came in, rehearsed with us for three takes, we watched them, continued to light and the next morning, we did three takes and went home – job done. It was the most rewarding scene."

Sonnenfeld also emphasised how every number was prepared ahead of time: every shot was pre-planned, meaning when he turned up on set every day he knew who needed to be where and what needed to be captured. "All the singing and dancing worked without a hitch. All the pre-production that we did really paid off."

Oh and if you want more easter eggs, look at the signs in the background!

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