Series Review: Musicals get a mild mocking in Apple’s “Schmigadoon!”

Let’s assume everybody who’ll stream this — or read a review of it — isn’t a card-carrying musical theater hater.

None of that tired “People break into song, that doesn’t happen in ‘real life'” argument that Jerry Seinfeld wore out decades ago, and which Keegan-Michael Key’s character Josh parrots in episode one of “Schmigadoon!” Because Cecily Strong’s Melissa has the perfect comeback.

“You seem OK with magic hammers that come when you call them.”

This “Lorne Michaels Presents…” limited series plays like an absurdly ambitious “Saturday Night Live” recurring sketch, or a much less ambitious musical spoof created expressly for the small screen. The songs are lightly-amusing parodies of tunes from “Oklahoma!,” “Carousel,” “The Sound of Music” and other classics, including — you guessed it — “Brigadoon.” And the intentionally old-fashioned choreography and camera shots are composed on a TV screen scale — compact.

The “Brigadoon” plot is an unhappy unmarried couple (Key and Strong) who stumble across a foggy bridge on a backpacking trip and find themselves in idyllic Schmigadoon, where the 167 “color blind casting” natives sing and dance and “always strive for peace and happiness.”

But is it really “the most beautiful, wonderful, magical place of all?”

“It’s like if ‘The Walking Dead’ was also ‘Glee!'”

Because it turns out, they cannot just walk out the way they walked in. And “We’re smart. We found our way out of IKEA” is no help.

It seems these two doctors, who met “cute” at the hospital where they work, cannot get out of Schmigadoon until they’ve found “true love.” That’s according to the leprechaun (Martin Short) who explains the bridge they cannot cross back over.

For cynical, always letting-her-down Josh, “It’s important to me that we hate things together.” But the more romantic Melissa kind of goes with it. “Holy s—, am I about to get a song, my OWN song?” And this hunky carny named Danny (Aaron Tveit) is giving her the “Tunnel of Love” come-on.

If they’re not truly in love, where will they find “true love” so that they can escape “Schmigadoon?”

Nothing here is going to give Lin-Manuel Miranda the cold shakes. A little tap dancing, parody songs by series co-creator (with Ken Daurio) Cinco Paul that sound more workshopped than Broadway-bound.

The stakes are lower than low. Because “Nobody gets killed in a musical. Except ‘Oklahoma!’ And ‘Carousel.’ And ‘South Pacific.’ And, oh HELLO. ‘West Side Story!'”

The leads have decent chemistry, with Strong having more to play with. Melissa debates morality and ethics with the natives and the hunky Hispanic doctor (Jaime Cahill) she goes to work for. And she explains to Josh (and the viewer) “how musicals work,” ticks off the ones they’re living through (“Music Man,””King and I,” etc.). Key’s tempted by the “school marm” (“What’s a ‘marm’ again?”) played by “Hamilton” veteran Ariana DeBose, and by a waitress flirt (Disney Channel alumna Dove Cameron).

Musical theater royalty Kristin Chenoweth plays the town’s puritanical head of Mothers Against the Future and preacher’s (Fred Armisen) wife, and equally royal Alan Cumming is the confused, Mayor Aloyius Menlove. He gets a number or three, and Ann Harada playing his wife lilts through an “oh, honey” number, as the last to get a clue.

“He’s a queer one, that man’o mine.”

Subtle. But damned if that isn’t that a cue for another Cumming number (delivered in a florid pre-“Showboat” style).

Her entire “SNL” career has prepped Strong for that moment when OB-GYN Melissa picks up a guitar and explains the facts of life to an incredibly naive pregnant couple with a “Sing with me” send-up of that song that began by naming a female deer.

“Vagina…is where the penis goes. Ovaries…make eggs for you and me! Testes…are where the sperm repose, CERVIX is where they can swim free!”

Each episode begins with a sweetly-deflating flashback that shows how much trouble our unhappy couple is in.

It’s all kind of cute, kind of snarky and just sweet enough to come off. Well, come off just enough to keep you watching to see if they finally get Keegan-Michael Key to sing and dance.

“I’m. Not. Singing.”

MPA Rating: A little profanity, a lot of innuendo

Cast: Cecily Strong, Keenan-Michael Key, Alan Cumming, Kristin Chenoweth, Dove Cameron, Ann Harada, Jaime Cahill, Aaron Tveit, Fred Armisen, Ariana DeBose, Martin Short and Jane Krakowski.

Credits: Created by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul. An Apple TV+ release.

Running time: Six episodes @:30 each.

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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