In the year that Broadway sleeps, musicals keep bubbling up inside our TV sets.
There’s been “The Prom” and “Jim Jam” and “In the Heights” and more. And now comes the biggest project yet – also the goofiest and most fun.
“Schmigadoon” (shown here) arrives Friday (July 16) on Apple TV+. “It is a love letter to the Golden Age of musicals,” Cinco Paul, who created it with Ken Daurio, told the Television Critics Association.
In many loving families, of course, people make fun of each other. So “Schmigadoon” is ready to mock all the old musical traditions … then break into another big-deal song and dance.
The six-episode story starts with two doctors – played by Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key – whose hot romance has cooled. They come across a magical village, where musical tropes persist.
People can’t wait to break into songs. Most are cheery, but we meet others – the preacher and his cold-hearted wife … the bad-boy type who has a carnival ride … and more.
This mocks musicals, but has epic musical numbers. “It was really important that we have legit Broadway stars,” Strong said. “Walking around New York right now, all the theaters are shuttered.”
“Schmigadoon” includes three people who have won Tonys in musicals – Alan Cumming (shown here), Jane Krakowski and Kristin Chenoweth — and two more with nominations, Aaron Tveit and Ariana DeBose.
(Tveit, in Broadway’s “Moulin Rouge,” has an excellent chance of winning when this year’s Tonys are handed out Sept. 26. He’s the only nominee for leading actor in a musical.)
Added to that are waves of theater-style actors in the chorus … and even on top of the school desks. One number required 20 kids to leap onto their desks and dance skillfully. “We were able to get all these great singing, dancing, tap-dancing kids in Vancouver,” said director Barry Sonnenfeld.
Supplementing that were others with musical leanings, including Fred Armisen, Dove Cameron, Jaime Camil, Strong and Key. The result has all of the good traits of old musicals, while eliminating their persistent whiteness. “There is this mystical overtone,” Key said, “that the people who live in this town just happen to be of different racial backgrounds.”
For Paul, 57, this was a chance to be surrounded by Broadway-level talent. “As someone who loves musicals,” he said, “this was a dream come true.”
Like many dreams, it took almost forever. “I had the idea for this over 20 years ago,” he said, “but I had no idea what it should be.”
Instead, he and Daurio wrote movie comedies – mostly animated (“The Lorax,” “The Secret Life of Pets,” the “Despicable Me” films), plus “The Santa Clause 2” and “Hop.” Then the break came with:
– A switch in concept. “It had always been two guys stumbling upon a musical,” Paul said. “Then I said, ‘Let’s make it a couple, and they’re stuck until they can find true love.’”
– And a transition: “The TV landscape changed,” he said.
Suddenly, the streamers discovered musicals, or shows about making music. They’ve ranged from “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” to “Girls5Eva” and “Julie and the Phantoms,” from “Hamilton” to the wacky musical parts of “Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar.”
Disney had its “Descendants” (with Cameron) and “Teen Beach” musicals on basic cable and “High School Musical: The Musical – The Series” on streaming. While Broadway rested, people kept singing inside our TV sets. Now they’re joined by “Schmigadoon.”