After four years together, Melissa (Cecily Strong) and Josh (Keegan-Michael Key) have found their relationship in a rut. They head out on a backpacking trip to revitalise it, only to get lost and find themselves in the magical town of Schmigadoon, where everyday life is a musical. They try to leave only to learn (from a leprechaun, played by Martin Short in a surreal cameo) that they can’t until they find true love.
While based on a great concept, ‘Schmigadoon!’ at times plays it a little too safe. Still, with its great cast and madcap characters – who aside from Melissa and Josh, include the queer mayor of the titular town (played by Alan Cumming) and the strict, disapproving parson’s wife (Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth) – there’s much to enjoy.
Fans of musicals will spot references to ‘Oklahoma’, ‘Carousel’, ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and ‘The Sound of Music’, to name just a few. Heck with six episodes running for about half an hour each, it’s even the running length of your average musical. There are some very funny moments, such as when Melissa awkwardly tries to join in a trained dancer’s routine, and plenty of smart aleck comments, particularly from Josh, who loathes musicals and likens the town to ‘The Wicker Man’.
The townspeople are as meddling as they are helpful, and discomfiting in their enthusiasm. They’ll start singing at the most inconvenient times, and there are some silly special effects woven in too. Regarding the relationship between Melissa and Josh, you’ve got all the typical male-female tension there as she has perfectionist tendencies while he’s unwilling to make the extra effort. It’s interesting to see that reality meet the fantasy of the world of musicals (where, in another funny twist, the characters don’t seem to realise when they’re singing and dancing).
‘Schmigadoon!’ manages to balance making fun of musicals while also being shamelessly adoring of them. Every song is an earworm and though it takes the penultimate episode until Chenoweth gets her solo, it’s worth the wait. The series is also super cheesy, but that’s to be expected. It will delight, charm and exhilarate fans of musicals, but those who aren’t fans will likely get little out of it.