Review: Self-aware musical comedy 'Schmigadoon!' bursts with charm

Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key aim to put on a show in new musical comedy offering from Apple TV+.

Tom Long
Special to The Detroit News
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Hey, we’ve got a pandemic, climate change, racism and sexism up to our eyeballs and democracy seems to be falling apart.

Let’s put on a show!

Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key in "Schmigadoon!"

That seems to be the underlying motivation and spirit driving the delightful “Schmigadoon!,” a musical fantasy that pokes relentless fun at musical fantasies. Featuring a host of (unemployed) Broadway actors — Kristin Chenoweth, Alan Cumming, Aaron Tveit — this six-episode series on Apple+ TV comes off as the ecstatic culmination of a COVID-19 theater camp.

Melissa (Cecily Strong) and Josh (Detroit’s Keagan-Michael Key) are New York City doctors struggling with their relationship. Hoping to strengthen their bond, they set off on a camping trip. Which leads them to stumble on a candy-colored town right out of some school marm fantasy called Schmigadoon.

In Schmigadoon, everyone is constantly breaking into musical numbers that sound an awful lot like musical numbers you’ve heard. Except that “Sound of Music” clone is about the human reproductive system. And “The Music Man” knockoff is about religious oppression.

Melissa and Josh soon discover there’s no way to leave Schmigadoon unless you’re with your one true love. When they try to leave together it doesn’t work. So they each set off to find true love among the dancing, singing, small town Schmigadooners.

Creators Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul keep the musical numbers bright and witty, and director Barry Sonnenfeld delivers a twinkling alternate universe in swift 30-minute chapters. “Schmigadoon!” manages to both expose and celebrate the formulaic structure of traditional musicals; theater buffs will love the sheer audacity of it all.

Self-aware musical comedies — “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist,” even “Glee” — traditionally have a tough time on TV. But “Schmigadoon!” is a one-time event on a premium streaming network, born of a particularly grim time. It’s a colorful burst of custom-made optimism that’s more than welcome, it’s needed.  

Tom Long is a longtime contributor to The Detroit News. 

‘Schmigadoon!’

GRADE: B+

Apple+ TV

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