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  • Writer's pictureSusannah Powers Stengel

Schmigado It!

RAVE/RANKING


Spoilers For: The First Three Episodes of Schmigadoon


Apple TV+ continues its siren song on your wallet, imploring you to take on just one more service. I'm so sorry to tell you--it's entirely worth it. For this ridiculous romp alone. Schmigadoon serves musical comedy/satire with depth, zing, and fun, and I had the unique pleasure of binge-watching the first three episodes with my partner and my visiting parents--English PhDs replete with a staggering knowledge of the American songbook.



With the subtitles on and the volume up to eleven, we talked and dissected the show live. Schmigado the right thing and join our ranks. Here's five reasons why.

1. IT TRANSPORTS YOU.

In the bleakest year of most of our collective lives, we need a silly, pure escape.

When Melissa (Cecily Strong) and Josh (Keegan-Michael Key) cross a bridge threshold seemingly into a leprechaun's demented musical ghost village, we get to skip down the yellow brick road right along with them.


It's quaint.

It's electric.

It's annoying.

It's absurd.


It's Seven Brides for Seven Brothers meets Carousel meets The Music Man meets Chicago meets color-conscious casting meets horny petticoat choreography.


We are going someplace incredibly familiar and yet someplace entirely new--open fully to our own snarky criticisms and certainly to those of the show's twin protagonists. Josh (Key) represents cynicism, Melissa (Strong) embodies possibility. No viewer can rip apart the frustrations of the show's environment better than Josh, its own leading man. He eye rolls, rants, and attacks the process again and again. He heads off any unwilling suspenders of disbelief at the pass. Even the cranky are along for the ride.



2. THE LOVE STORY'S STAKES HIT CLOSE TO HOME.

Melissa and Josh can exit this horror show of a nonconsensual spectacle, if, in the words of a shady leprechaun, they find true love.

AWKWARD--cause they're already in a committed four year relationship with each other. The beats of the tension, woven in playful and unexpected flashbacks, show us a couple with incredible chemistry who bonded in a moment of sheer serendipity but find the work of staying in love inorganic. Their song "Lovers' Spat" highlights the intricacies of avoidance and confrontation that a flabby relationship rhythm can ignite in stagnant couples.


While my dad was noting the ditty's homage to great composer Frank Loesser, I couldn't help but see my own slippery slopes of the past as the ones Melissa and Josh were treading before my eyes. I found myself grabbing my partner's hand and trying to appreciate him just a little bit harder. He winked at me when I gave him a squeeze. Not our story.


Flame.
Excitement.
Comfort.
Boredom.
Apathy.
Avoidance.
Resistance.

Our two lovers' fights build so feasibly and contain such relatable dialogue. Their feelings are little, petty, eroding, and fair. We've all been there.


To focus a musical, and in fact, an overall plot, so firmly on the spirited decline of a relationship (though of course I hope they're plotting to get Strong and Key back together again!), and still make that death a pleasure cruise is what sells this show for even the most non-musical palette.

3. THE MUSIC PLAYS WITH ITSELF.

From Rogers and Hammerstein to Bob Fosse to Stephen Sondheim, you can feast on sumptuous platter of semi-satirical, semi-obsequious allusions when you dive into each musical number. It's a nod. It's a theft. It's an innovation.


Shout out to my mother and father, who as we watched taught a casual master class in mid-century folksy musical theatre while they watched with me. The show's most consistent reference is the Americana sincerity and squeaky morality of Oklahoma! but it holds significant space for more lascivious songbird pleasures too. Speaking of . . .


I simmer to recall the jazzier, sensual efforts of town scalawag Danny Bailey (played by the searingly talented Aaron Tveit, best known for his seminal work as Gabe in Next to Normal on Broadway) as he seduces a newly single and delightfully pliable Cecily Strong. He moves with grace and ease, and she moves like the sexy goofball she is. Both captivate.


The musical uses its own song and dance to make fun of itself and to betray its own characters. After a conquest song of warning about his Lothario ways, Danny beds Strong, only to horrify her the following morning with a song of devotion and the world's most embarrassing morning after brunch.


Breakfast for two.

My mom couldn't get over Strong's savagely bland reaction: "Wow. You really went all out."



4. AN A1 CAST MEETS INCREDIBLE DESIGN TEAMS.


Just look at the lips on Kristin Chenoweth, and yes, that's Fred Armisen behind her!


It's every frame a picture up in here, folks.

The show makes no apologies for its goofy overcommitments to the world, its extremity, its visual flights of fancy. Just ask the insufferably red button nose painted in every scene on town flirt, Betsy (a winning Dove Cameron).



5. THERE'S SOMETHING SWEET BUT VITAL TO SAY. (I HOPE.)


"Mr. mayor, are you gay?"

"I try to be."


When a desert-dry but deeply kind Melissa asks the towns fierce femme leader, closeted Mayor Menlove, (played by a pitch-perfect Alan Cumming) this question, his answer nutshells the whole affair of Schmigadoon.


Frankly, we should all try to be more gay.

Music cracks ignorance and promotes evolution to help us disseminate new values. I am excited to see the smallness of this world shift and expand as the tectonic plates of our heroes' awkward quest for new, true love unfolds.


If the show stays small and self-reflexive alone, I will forget about it by this time next year. But if, amid its kick lines and its flamboyant bluster, it manages to thoroughly explore how fanfare help us connect to the best parts of ourselves--I'm thoroughly and completely down.


Bring on the silly. The right step-ball-change can change the world.


What's your favorite musical tv series of all time? Comment here!


Okay so the finale sucked balls. Ruined at the final ep. What do you think?


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