The double whammy premiere of Schmigadoon! Season 1 Episode 1 and Schmigadoon! Season 1 Episode 2 was the perfect first dose of this quirky, funny, slightly subversive homage to the Hollywood Golden Age musicals.
The creative team of Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, with Barry Sonnenfeld helming the production as director, have delivered something quite unlike anything on screen today.
In a time of harsh realities and hard truths, Schmigadoon! challenges us to laugh at the absurdities of life and trust in love. Not only that, but it literally tells us to “Enjoy the ride.”
We begin this Heroes’ Journey with Melissa and Josh, a couple of successful professionals — doctors, in fact — who meet by chance at a candy machine, and things just click.
What, so one kick and, apparently, MAGIC?
(Please take note of who was the champion and who was the skeptic of “magic” at the start of this relationship.)
A year later, they are still having celebratory dinner dates, proposing toasts, and making grand romantic gestures.
But by the four-year mark, their Ordinary World actually becomes pretty ordinary.
Feel free to explore but don’t wander too far from the trail. There’s no cell service here in the wild and we don’t want anyone dying out there. Seriously. People died last time.
So off they go to the Sacred Heart Love Trail, where Melissa’s looking for a way to improve their relationship, and Josh loses her (metaphorical) heart.
I propose that this is, in fact, the Call to Adventure, which Josh rejects because Marv and Joanna aren’t exactly his idea of mentors. To be fair, he doesn’t actually think the relationship needs work.
Josh: I don’t know what the point of this is at all.
Melissa: You don’t want to make our relationship better?
Josh: Our relationship is fine. It’s… fine. I mean, why does everything have to be perfect? Why can’t it just be enough?
However, identifying Crossing the Threshold is about as obvious as the fake plants on the other side of the bridge.
Granted, it takes an actual leprechaun appearing in front of them before they realize that they’re not in their own reality anymore.
Amazing what the human mind can explain away, right?
Josh: Was that a leprechaun?
Melissa: Yes. He said something. What did he say?
Josh: I don’t know. I was more focused on how he was shattering my whole construct of what’s real and not real in the world because he was a freakin’ leprechaun!
When they first attempt to leave, it’s telling that Josh insists it must be a trick bridge while Melissa, the skeptic at the candy machine, is quick to jump to “magic” as an explanation.
By the way, Martin Short as the rather sinister and unhelpful leprechaun, was casting genius.
If my numbers are right, both parts of the premiere gave us one minute of music for every two minutes of non-musical interaction (and that’s including the real-world bits).
The production value required to produce these full-blown musical numbers for a show with a half-hour format blows my mind.
The “Schmigadoon!” ensemble welcome alone clocks in at four minutes. Four minutes out of thirty total run minutes. Think about that.
The commitment to presenting this as a true descendent of classic musicals is breathtaking and gives my fourteen-year-old theatre-kid heart a resuscitative squeeze it hasn’t felt for decades.
Not only does Schmigadoon! come with a production pedigree like no other, its cast is completely STACKED with Broadway and comedic talent.
In the tradition of classic musicals, we are quickly introduced to the good-hearted civic leader, Mayor Aloysius Menlove (Alan Cumming), and the obvious villain, the Reverand’s wife, Mildred Layton (Kristen Chenoweth).
Mildred: I don’t like those two outsiders, Howard, or their new-fangled city ideas. They don’t belong here.
Howard: I don’t know about that, Mildred.
Mildred: I know you don’t. That’s why I’m telling you. They need to go.
Broadway veteran Ann Harada, and the ubiquitous SNL alum, Fred Armisen, play the respective supportive– but as-yet nonentity — spouses of the town’s two leaders. One would hope their considerable talents are brought into play as the series progresses.
To create some delicious complications, we have Aaron Tveit oozing appeal as Danny Bailey, the town’s Billy Bigelow-esque charming ne’er-do-well, and Dove Cameron as nymphette/waitress, Betsy McDonough.
So what do we learn in this premiere?
We know that Josh likes the easy way. He shows Melissa the trick with the candy machine.
He doesn’t compose a speech for their anniversary but arranges for the candy delivery.
He even shortens Melissa’s name to “Mel.” He likes bang for his buck.
Betsy: Look! There’s the swing I used to swing on the summer I turned fourteen. Seems like that was only yesterday.
Josh: But it wasn’t, right?
Since Betsy is the obvious candidate for his “true love” plan, he goes with it … until her ambiguous age becomes an issue. Methinks he’ll have to put in some work with Farmer McDonough, though.
Melissa, on the other hand, is seeing her usual strategies fall apart with her relationship.
So she’s pivoting from the tried-and-true self-improvement path to one with more risk.
If that happens to involve carnival barkers, her own musical numbers, and the gentlemen’s punch bowl, well, “Yee-Hunk!”
Melissa: Wait, is this an actual gun?
Danny: It sure is. Now, you’re gonna want to place your left hand on the barrel, while you position your finger on the trigger. Now, be careful. This thing can go off if you stroke it the right way, even gently. So mind your grip and just remember, these things were built to explode.
For a woman who naturally overthinks and over-plans, learning to go with the flow is probably going to take more than one ride through the Tunnel of Love.
There’s a smidgen of Pleasantville in her interaction with Mayor Menlove that foreshadows the possibility that Melissa and Josh’s presence will affect Schmigadoon as much as the experience affects the travelers.
That smidge is backed up by Mrs. Layton’s dislike of all things that don’t fall within her parameters of acceptability.
Melissa: It’s kind of modern. I mean, you saw the ensemble. It’s color-blind casting.
Josh: Yeah, but I also get the feeling the preacher’s wife doesn’t like OUR color-blind casting.
Chenoweth is brilliant in the role, embodying the rigid and judgemental archetype in the spirit of The Music Man‘s Eulalie Shinn.
When she appears suddenly in the inn’s upstairs corridor for the sole purpose of interrupting a kiss, I fully expected her to levitate, wraith-like, and swoop down on them as Schmigadoon’s avenging angel of morality.
I don’t give perfect scores to premieres lightly. What justifies it here is that, although the show was obviously created for and by lovers of musicals, Schmigadoon! is totally accessible to people like Josh who just don’t.
Josh: You know how much I hate musicals. People don’t just burst into song in real life.
Melissa: Well, you seem okay with magical hammers that come back when you call them.
Josh: That’s totally different. Thor is the god of thunder and, of course, Mjolnir comes back when he calls.
The real-world commentary about the bizarre logic and culture of a 1940s musical provides a modern audience with representatives who voice the thoughts we’re thinking from our living room sofas.
Even Melissa, the musicals fan, can’t help but wonder at the lyrics being sung.
Danny: [singing] We’d have a kid or two or three. Two girls for you and two boys for me.
Melissa: [speaking] Shouldn’t all the kids be for both of us?
Her allowance for consensual spanking between two responsible adults was a true LOL moment.
As a limited-run event, every moment of Schmigadoon! is worth cherishing and rewatching.
Personally, I’ll have the line, “Where men are men and cows are cows,” running through my head for DAYS.
Josh: How much is a ‘bit’?
Pete: Twelve and a half cents.
Josh: Why is there a term for twelve and a half cents? How’s that helpful?
How do you think Josh and Melissa will get out of Schmigadoon? What if they decide to stay? (After all, Melissa’s already singing her own numbers.)
What if true love only exists while in Schmigadoon? Will that be enough to get them over the bridge?
What happens to a Schmigadoon resident who crosses over? Will it be like Disney’s Enchanted?
Fun Fact #1: Schmigadoon!’s director, Barry Sonnenfeld, was the EP on Enchanted
Fun Fact #2: He doesn’t actually even like musicals.
Hit our comments with your raves and rants!
Also, stay tuned for our series of exclusive Schmigadoon! Press Day interviews with the cast and production team!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.