“Schmigadoon!”: How a group of musical theater nerds (and one hater) brought Apple TV’s next comedy hit to life

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Schmigadoon! is a strange sight. The adults began to sing, one of which extolled the virtues of “corn pudding”. Comedy stars like Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key mingle with Broadway greats like Kristen Chenoweth and Alan Cumming. And while the series is the passion project of Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, the healthy Mormon pals behind bubble boy and The Secret Life of Pets, the series itself features the beards of comedy writers like Julie Klausner and Bowen Yang and the funhouse mirror aesthetic of director Barry Sonnenfeld.

Schmigadoon! works not in spite of her disparate creative perspectives, but because of her. It is a charming little gem of a spectacle, made up of a choir of voices working in harmony.

The Apple TV + series follows what appears to be a perfectly normal New York couple as they embark on a couples hike. As they fight for a small thing (which is clearly emblematic of a big thing), they find themselves propelled across a stone bridge and into the bright, sunny world of Schmigadoon. Everyone is singing, dressing and acting like they’re living in an old-fashioned musical in this city. When our protagonists, Josh (Keegan-Michael Key) and Melissa (Cecily Strong) attempt to leave, they are greeted by a rowdy leprechaun (Martin Short) informing them that they can’t leave until they find it. true love. From there, the two are trapped in an absurd hell of ’40s and’ 50s musicals and subverted rom-com clichés.

So how the hell did it Schmigadoon! to become? Well, the history of the fictional city is on purpose a mystery. “We started to discuss it. [in the writers’ room], but for me it just got a little less fun. I think in a way it’s this magical musical thing that was sent by the powers that be to help these two people, ”Cinco Paul told Decider. But the Apple TV + show came to fruition after Paul and Daurio worked for years on the concept, sold it to Lorne Michaels’ production comedy Broadway Video, and recruited a list of dream collaborators. constantly expanding. The first to join us after the involvement of Lorne Michaels? Saturday Night Live star Cecily Strong.

Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key at Schmigadoon!
Photo: Apple TV +

“Ever since I read the first script I just loved it,” star and producer Cecily Strong told Decider. “I love that it is so funny and then I loved that it was so grounded. And then I loved that we were just being sincere and wore your heart on your sleeve. I have always liked comedy which is so sweet.

Paul told Decider he knew “instantly” that Strong was his perfect Melissa and co-producer. “We were just completely nuts about musicals in this brief reunion,” he said. “So literally… we were writing for her as Melissa from the start.” Finding their perfect Josh in Keegan-Michael Key took a bit more effort, but it was obvious the role had to go to the comic book veteran and writer as well. “His addition was so important because Josh does some unsympathetic things. Keegan is so sympathetic you forgive him for trying to cross the bridge with everyone, or at least I hope you do.

Casting of the inhabitants of Schmigadoon! apparently only took the power of wish. Paul said that “a lot of these people had their pictures in the writers’ room.” Paul

“Mildred Layton was written 100% for Kristen [Chenoweth]. As you can imagine, the Countess was written 100% for Jane [Krakowski]Paul said. “I am a huge fan of Jaime Camil and have become friends with him, so Doc Lopez was written 100% for him.”

For the rest of the cast, Paul emphasized actors who had extensive musical theater experience. “I really felt like I wanted everyone to sing live on sets and do their own stage. And because of that, we really needed people who have that experience of eight shows a week,” Paul said. “That’s why you get your Ariana DeBose and Alan Cumming and Ann Harada then Dove [Cameron], who I think hasn’t made her Broadway debut yet but she’s amazing. I mean her voice is amazing and she’s so consistent.

Aaron Tveit and Cecily Strong in Schmigadoon
Photo: Apple TV +

All of that professionalism naturally could have put some pressure on the comedic side of the cast. Actors like Strong and Key, Fred Armisen, and Martin Short can get into musical comedy skits, but aren’t used to the same grueling technical work. Strong told Decider that “any dance act was intimidating,” but dancing with current Tony contestant Aaron Tveit especially was.

“It was like, ‘Oh, Aaron, you just got nominated for a Tony and now I have to dance next to you. ‘ But it was still inspiring, always exciting. Fortunately, I didn’t have to overdo it. And I just got to look like someone having fun rather than… I didn’t have to look like Ariana [DeBose]. I had to look like someone who wants dance like Ariana.

Namely, one of the standout sequences in the series – and Cinco Paul and Cecily Strong’s favorite number – is Ariana DeBose’s jaw-dropping dance number atop a school desk in the episode. 4. A full group of child performers join her, dancing in unison on desks behind her. “IIt kind of sums up everything I love about musicals, just the joy and how so much fun and fun it is, and it makes you smile and you can get lost for a moment, ”Paul said.

But this breathtaking moment of fun only came thanks to the hard work of the legions. There was first Hamilton alum DeBose and a supporting cast of local Vancouver talent. Then choreography by Chris Gattelli, music by Cinco Paul and design work by Bo Welch. And, of course, the staging of Barry Sonnenfeld.

Ariana DeBose in Schmigadoon
Photo: Apple TV +

Sonnefeld, who is perhaps best known for his work on The Addams Family and Men in black, brought a dark and whimsical eye to Schmigadoon!. He was also the production’s symbolic musical skeptic.

“It’s funny, because I’m not a musical theater guy. I don’t think people should sing and dance under any conditions. But they sent me the scripts and Bo Welch, who is a production designer who I still work with, and Rose Lamb who is a producer who I work with and my wife. [They] everyone loved the scripts and [my wife] said I had to do it. So if your wife says you gotta do something, you gotta do it, that’s how I understood Schmigadoon!“Sonnenfeld said with a chuckle.” And I was a quick study. I praised a lot of these movies like Carousel and Seven wives for seven brothers. But my musical [taste], the only ones that I liked are rather Monty Python’s meaning of life, hair, which is not a traditional musical, and Pennies from the sky. These are my three favorite musicals, but now I have a fourth. I loved working on this show.

“I think a lot of directors don’t know how to shoot musicals. Me neither, but I knew how the other directors shot them, which is you want to see the whole body. I don’t understand those choreographed numbers where you cut into someone’s shoes so you know it’s not the real actor doing it, ”Sonnenfeld said. “We had such a good cast in terms of musicals and musicals, that we were able to film them in full, which is the way musicals should be shot.”

Sonnenfeld added that the production was able to lock down every shot during rehearsals, which ironically meant big dance number scenes were the shortest, easiest days on set. “The casting was perfect,” he said.

Jane Krakowski as the Countess of Schmigadoon!
Photo: Apple TV +

Corn Schmigadoon! doesn’t work just because of its actors, crew or director. Its magic is also due to the meticulous work of writers. Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio may have co-wrote the pilot and Paul each of the original songs, but the show’s beards and modern flair came from a writers’ room filled with alumni of some of the best comedy shows. .

“Initially, I was looking for writers who worked on Jane the Virgin, Kimmy Schmidt, and The right place. These are my three shows that I love, and it is the sensitivity that seemed to me the closest to what I wanted to do with Schmigadoon!. This is how we found Alison [Silverman] and Kate [Gersten]Paul said, adding that as soon as Cecily Strong was hired as a producer, she recommended her. SNL co-starring Bowen Yang and Difficult people star and designer Julie Klausner.

Strong told Decider that she wanted Klausner and Yang to be in the writers room because “they’re both brilliant,” but also because she knew she wouldn’t be in the room and that she trusted their point of view on the material. “The other thing I like Schmigadoon! is that it’s the female character who really sets off on this journey of self-examination and you just don’t see much. You don’t see the girl as having to grow up too, and so I really liked that. And I thought I had Julie and Bowen [in the room] was going to protect that and make it richer and I think they did.

It didn’t take long for Paul to agree. “It was really important to have Julie’s voice there. And everyone thought to some extent that there was a lot of seriousness and sweetness [in my writing] that I need something to counter. And Julie is really adorable, she’s not the character on Difficult people, but there is one perk for her that the show needed that she delivered 100%. And Bowen brought that great contemporary, comedic point of view that was so important to have it in the play as well, ”said Paul.

Days in the Schmigadoon! The Writers’ Room started out watching clips from 1940s and 50s musicals and recently the writers gathered for an all-musical karaoke night. And soon after Schmigadoon! premieres on Apple TV +, it won’t be crazy to imagine fans directing Schmigadoon! karaoke evenings. Each episode features a number of original musical numbers, all full of jokes and full of nods to the genre’s biggest hits. The show is a truly eerie symphony of crackling comedic vocals, distinguished Broadway talent, old-fashioned technical prowess, and the sweet sensibility of Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio. It’s addicting, heartwarming, and hysterical. Quite simply, it is Schmigadoon!

Schmigadoon! premieres on Apple TV + on Friday, July 16.

Where to stream Schmigadoon!


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