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A fantasy musical / comedy series about a couple who meet-cute, but after three years together, end up attending a couples counseling weekend in the woods. They wander off and find themselves in an idyllic land, where music is coming from everywhere and the residents behave as if they live in a throwback musical from the 40s. They’re told they can’t leave until they find true love.
Produced by SNL creator Lorne Michaels, this show is brimming with SNL favorites including veteran Martin Short, Fred Armisen, and Cecily Strong — with Keegan-Michael Key playing Strong’s love interest. Award-winning Broadway stars Kristin Chenoweth (Wicked), Alan Cumming (Cabaret) and Aaron Tveit (Catch Me If You Can and Moulin Rouge) round out the stellar cast.
Animation screenwriters extraordinaire Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio (Despicable Me, Secret Life of Pets) helm here as creators who also provided the original songs, “sound alikes” for 1940’s Broadway classics from Brigadoon, Oklahoma! Carousel and a few others.
Barry Sonnenfeld directs the series, and its worth noting that he started out as a cinematographer for early Coen brothers’ films before directing the Addams Family films and the Men in Black trilogy.
With musicals enjoying a mainstream streaming heyday — from Hamilton to In the Heights, The Prom to the upcoming West Side Story — Schmigadoon! takes things to a new level and walks the line between homage and send-up. With a nod to the cynics — our male lead tells his girlfriend “I hate musicals — people don’t just burst into song in real life” — it also embraces the clever, funny, cute and ambitious mix of dialogue and song.
To give you a sense: A chorus sings and dances through a lover’s spat. There’s a musical number about an antiquated food: corn puddin’. Someone says, “It’s as if the Walking Dead were in a musical number from Glee.” And my personal favorite: Martin Short appears as a leprechaun.
There are multiple levels of unexpected entertainment here, from the humor to the songs, the cynicism to the fantasy to the incredulity, and not all of it will always be apparent.
Lin Manuel-Miranda made it cool for people of all ages to become fans of musical theater, and now it’s getting the SNL treatment. For Broadway fans, Schmigadoon! is full of Easter Eggs and call backs to characters, dance numbers and songs that have thrilled audiences throughout the world for decades. Others may find it too corny or too much, and miss the parody of it all. Some will be happy to settle for just an episode or two. Watch it for the songs.
Fans of Broadway, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, High School Musical, or SNL — or anyone who appeared in their own high school musical will find moments to love.