It’s a big year for musicals: Broadway re-opens soon. Several highly-anticipated musicals are hitting the big screen. Plus, of course, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series returned for more. But while we have plenty of modern musicals to look forward to, one show is taking us back in time. Schmigadoon!, starring Keegan-Michael Key and Cecily Strong is a delightful homage to classic musicals.
The show follows a Josh and Melissa, struggling couple who get transported to the titular musical town while on a retreat to rekindle their relationship. And, like any good musical, there’s a catch: Josh and Melissa can’t leave until they find true love. From its name to dazzling musical numbers, the show is a treasure trove of nods to the musicals it is spoofing. Plus, the cast boasts some serious broadway talent. While the series runs the gamut in referencing classic musicals, from Hello Dolly! to Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, a smattering truly stand out. Making them, of course, perfect to fill the Schmigadoon!-sized hole in our hearts. Time to grab some corn pudding and get watching!
This is probably the most obvious reference, you know, considering the show is called Schmigadoon! And like the Apple TV+ spoof, the musical, which debuted on Broadway in 1947, follows a pair of friends who stumble into the titular town. Only in the musical, it’s a pair of New Yorkers who find Brigadoon, a town that only appears for a single day every century, while on a trip to Scotland. Naturally, one of the tourists falls in love with a local. The stage musical was adapted into a film in 1954 starring Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse, which you can rent on Vudu. And Columbo fans should be thrilled to learn that Peter Falk led the cast of an Emmy-winning 1966 TV movie.
Melissa arrives in Schmigadoon with Josh, but town bad boy and carnival barker Danny Bailey, and his tunnel of love, soon turn her head. His rapscallion reputation and all-to-brief plans to rob a bank in the name of providing for a future family are pure Billy Bigelow. Their romance is very short-lived, as Schmigadoon! has too many other musicals to cycle through in only six episodes. But unlike the stage musical, the Apple TV+ series is a comedy and all rapscallions survive to sing and dance their way through the final ensemble song. You can find the 1956 adaptation on Vudu.
While Melissa takes a detour to Carousel, Josh is pursued by Betsy McDonough (Dove Cameron), the naive, very flirty young waitress. With a bubbly personality and a father who tries to rope Josh into marrying her after spotting them spending a little one-on-one time together, Betsy is a delightful take on Ado Annie, sans all the drama the musical counterpart has to offer. The 1955 adaptation is currently streaming on Disney+.
The Music Man
After their roads diverge early in the series, Melissa quickly realizes Josh is on the path of The Music Man’s traveling salesman and con man Harold Hill. This makes the schoolmarm, Emma Tate (Ariana DeBose), and her lisp-having little brother Carson the comedy show’s equivalent of Marian Paroo and little Winthrop. This pushes Josh to lean heard into the little Music Man knowledge Melissa arms him with to fulfill the storyline—and make Emma fall in love with him through his kindness to Carson. The musical largely lends itself to the comedy series with its central romance. But we also see a reimagined version of Mrs. Shinn, not as mayor’s wife but arguably more important: Mildred Layton, the preacher’s wife and responsible for overseeing the town’s pious ways. And naturally, the show’s major antagonist, played by Kristin Chenoweth. Rent The Music Man on Youtube.
Guys & Dolls
What do you get when you cross a pair of betting men and their intersecting love stories? A musical based on two short stories by Damon Runyon. While Billy Bigelow is the obvious starting point for Danny Bailey, Schmigadoon!’s rapscallion also gives off big Sky Masterson energy. Danny even quotes his Guys & Dolls counterpart with a smooth two words on that elusive chemistry. And while technically Josh, who is unfortunately, a musical detractor, is a newcomer to this musical world, we can’t help but see a bit of one Nathan Detroit in him. Namely, their similar feelings towards marrying their longtime partners. Josh may not consider himself a rapscallion but… isn’t he? He certainly dabbles in the art. You can watch the 1955 adaptation, starring Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra, for free on YouTube.
This Irish tale gets a short but very sweet little nod that kicks off Schmigadoon!’s season-long narrative. After their failed attempt to cross over the bridge back into their world, a leprechaun appears to tell them they can only leave with their true love—making them question everything, and one another. Martin Short’s leprechaun is more or less the series’ homage to Og. The musical follows an eldery Irishman and his daughter as they bury a pot of gold in the fictional US state of Missitucky, believing it’ll grow. Frances Ford Coppola directed a live-action adaptation of the stage show in 1968, starring Fred Astaire. (The film received mixed reviews but is definitely worth a watch, if only to see the collaboration between the legendary Astaire and the then-young, upstart Coppola.) You can find that on Vudu.
20th Century Fox
The Sound of Music
In her attempt to find true love and escape Schmigadoon, Melissa winds up in a series of events straight out of The Sound of Music. She takes a job working as a nurse—despite being an actual qualified OBGYN—for Jaime Camil’s Doc Lopez, the initially upright, gruff, and widowed town doctor. Who is, naturally based, a twist on one Captain Von Trapp. And, naturally he comes with his own devious heiress fiancee, Countess Gabriele Von Blerkom (Jane Krakowski). Listen to Melissa educate young townspeople about where babies come from to the tune of “Do-Re-Mi” and you’ll never think about the famed Rodgers & Hammerstein song the same way again. The 1965 adaptation of The Sound of Music is streaming on Disney+.
“Original Cast Album: Co-Op” from Documentary Now!
While certainly not a ‘40s-set musical, the ITV series, one the documentary spoof series’ most beloved episodes is a musical theatre tribute… parodying the 1970 documentary film Original Cast Album: Company. Written by John Mulaney and Seth Meyers, the parody follows a marathon recording session for an ill-fated stage musical about, you guessed it, a housing co-op in New York City. You can watch the “Co-op” episode of Documentary Now! on Netflix.
Schmigadoon! Season one is now streaming on Apple TV+.