‘Schmigadoon!’ is a goofy delight for musical fans: Apple TV+ review


If the words “Oklahoma! basket auction” don’t mean anything to you, Schmigadoon! may not be your show. But if your eyes light up in delight thinking how ripe for parody and homage Oklahoma! is not to mention all other golden age movie musicals — then the new Apple TV+ musical comedy starring Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key is exactly your kind of weird, specific treat.

Strong and Key are a modern-day couple who find themselves stuck in a relationship rut. On a retreat in the woods, they stumble upon an odd little village (populated by a delightful band of Broadway favorites) straight out of a 1940s musical. The two wander around this “attraction” with delight (Strong) and skepticism (Key), but when it’s time to leave, they find themselves trapped in this mysterious, magical town of Schmigadoon with no way to get back to the present. Who will help them? Are the townspeople friend…or foe? Will true love save the day???

Fans likely know exactly where this six-episode series is going from the first moments Strong and Key run across a bridge in an attempt to return home, but the journey — complete with lothario scoundrels (a perfect Aaron Tveit), a closeted mayor (Alan Cumming), and a single schoolteacher (Ariana DeBose) — is a blissful, goofy romp; a cast full of capital-C characters that fully understood the assignment.

Centering it all is Strong, an SNL vet known for playing comically large individuals with an often zany energy. Here, she’s quieter but no less compelling, watching a wacky world surround her with equal parts enthusiasm and dread. She’s deeply charming on Schmigadoon!, and the show succeeds by making it easy to root for her. A particular delight for this reviewer was any moment she brought matter-of-fact, modern-day feminism to bear on any of the *many* problematic ideas and storylines from that era of musicals. (Her drunken rant about the aforementioned basket auction is something to behold.)

If only all rapscallions were as harmless at Aaron Tveit
Credit: ApPleTV+

As she and Key make their way through this off-kilter world, both together and apart, it’s fun for musical fans to play “spot the reference” alongside them — there are nods to everything from Billy Bigelow to “Ya Got Trouble” to the gazebo from The Sound of Music. A random extended tap number? Oh, you know that’s happening. It’s all so specific and niche that it’s sort of a joy to realize this show, created and written by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, is able to exist at all. It’s the kind of weirdo project that can only happen because there are approximately one million different streaming services right now, and they all desperately need stories.


It’s all so specific and niche that it’s sort of a joy to realize this show is able to exist at all

It feels a little pernickety, then, to note that beyond the references, there isn’t much more here. The musical numbers (also by Paul) are quippy and expertly choreographed, though they aren’t quite the earworms that others in the genre have put forth (both Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Galavant also had more to say in their respective songs). Key and Strong’s relationship difficulties are one-note, and at just six episodes long, this thing hums along pleasantly but never really puts forth a strong point of view to explore about musicals, or that era, or even modern-day romantic relationships.

But then…you’re sitting there, watching Kristin Chenoweth as a puritanical church lady in full moral panic or Jane Krakowski channeling her inner spurned Baroness, and suddenly, well, depth doesn’t matter all that much. Sometimes, it’s just a delight to watch a goofy show. So much great television is depressing, or heavy, or requires the explanation “the humor comes from how dark it is!!” If Schmigadoon! doesn’t ever rise to something bigger, that’s OK. It’s still a great place to visit.

Schmigadoon! streams on AppleTV+ beginning Friday.

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