If people in your town start the day by singing and settle problems with dance-offs, you just might be in “Schmigadoon!”
Seen as a tribute to those musicals where reality is hardly a chorus away, the new AppleTV+ series gives fans of “Oklahoma!,” “Brigadoon” and “Music Man” a chance to wallow in the world one more time.
Creator Cinco Paul says the idea has been percolating for more than 20 years, “but I had no idea what it should be. You sort of stow it away on the shelf for a while.”
Thanks to the proliferation of premium channels (and the need for content), he took another look and realized it could be a limited series.
To get viewers into the town – where production numbers are as common as picket fences – he decided to send a vacationing couple into Schmigadoon and give them a challenge: They can’t leave until they find true love.
“Saturday Night Live’s” Cecily Strong and “Key & Peele’s” Keegan-Michael Key are cast as the visitors.
To complicate matters, Key’s character, Josh, hates musicals and doesn’t want anything to do with them. (In reality, Key has sung in several productions, including the Netflix version of “The Prom.”)
“There is this mystical overtone that the people that live in this town just happen to be of different racial backgrounds,” Key says. “They just happen to exist there in a certain amount of harmony.”
Adds Paul: “We’re celebrating the musicals, but we’re using this as an opportunity to deconstruct them and sort of comment on things that are were maybe problematic, and make them better.”
To give it a real Broadway feel, Paul has drafted plenty of Tony-winning stars – Kristin Chenoweth, Alan Cumming, Jane Krakowski – who know their way around the medium. “It was very important that these people have legit chops so they could pull that off,” he says.
Executive Producer Barry Sonnenfeld says casting was key because the story veers into both the real and the theatrical. “We were incredibly lucky how amazingly everyone was able to sing and dance,” he says.
Knowledge of specific musicals, Strong says, isn’t necessary to understand this parody. “I think of those little bits that we do (as) Easter eggs for the musical theater audience.”
It’s a love letter to Broadway, she adds. “When we filmed it, the theaters were shuttered and we got to make musical theater. It was really wonderful.”
Shot in Vancouver, the series was a visit to a world few know. “I’d say I was like a kid in a candy shop every day,” Paul says. “It was amazing that this was actually happening.”
If there’s a return visit, it could look at musicals from another era. “These six episodes are really focused around the Golden Age of musicals,” Paul says. “Ultimately, maybe there is a movement into sort of other musicals like ‘Bye Bye Birdie.’”