‘Schmigadoon!’ Is an Ode to Broadway Musicals, and Pokes Fun At Them Too

The director Barry Sonnenfeld has by no means been a theater man.

“I am not a fan of Broadway musicals,” he grumped affably over the cellphone. “I’m not a fan of filmed musicals. I don’t understand why people would stop talking and start singing.”

So Sonnenfeld, who’s finest recognized for the “Men in Black” motion pictures, was a curious alternative to direct the brand new Apple TV+ comedy “Schmigadoon!,” a collection whose very title screams musical theater spoof.

The showrunner, Cinco Paul, a fan of Sonnenfeld’s work on the extremely stylized and intermittently musical cult collection “Pushing Daisies,” was unaware of the director’s aversion till they have been capturing final fall, mid-pandemic, in Vancouver, British Columbia, with a blockbuster forged full of Broadway stars.

“Here we are on the set,” Paul recalled, “and he’s half jokingly saying, ‘Why are there so many songs?’”

If you depend reprises, they quantity almost two dozen — composed by Paul, who created the present with Ken Daurio — unfold over six half-hour episodes that air beginning July 16.

An affectionate, figuring out sendup of basic American musicals, “Schmigadoon!” stars Cecily Strong of “Saturday Night Live” and Keegan-Michael Key, recently of Netflix’s “The Prom,” as a up to date couple in a stagnating relationship. On a backpacking journey, they stumble right into a frozen-in-time, trapped-in-a-musical city referred to as Schmigadoon, which they will’t escape till they discover real love.

Paul, who grew up on his mom’s Broadway forged recordings and performed piano for musicals as an undergraduate at Yale, stated he got here up with the kernel of “Schmigadoon!” virtually 25 years in the past. Not figuring out what to do with the thought, he put it away till Andrew Singer at Lorne Michaels’s manufacturing firm, Broadway Video, talked about their curiosity in musicals just a few years in the past. A match was made.

According to Strong, Michaels is — like her — “a musical dork.” And the present introduced on stage-savvy writers, together with Julie Klausner (“Difficult People”) and Strong’s fellow “S.N.L.” star Bowen Yang.

In Schmigadoon, the locals embody the candy, melancholy Mayor Aloysius Menlove, performed by the Tony Award winner Alan Cumming; the ethical scourge, Mildred Layton, performed by the Tony winner Kristin Chenoweth; and the good-looking carny Danny Bailey, performed by Aaron Tveit, who received information of his Tony nomination for “Moulin Rouge!” through the collection shoot. Other boldface names from Broadway embody Jane Krakowski, Ann Harada and Ariana DeBose.

Recently, Paul, Sonnenfeld and members of the forged spoke individually by cellphone about “Schmigadoon!” and their affinity, or lack thereof, for musicals. These are edited excerpts from these interviews.

“Musicals are charming, and they’re so entertaining, however they’re additionally generally dumb, and generally they’re problematic,” stated the collection co-creator Cinco Paul.Credit…Adam Amengual for The New York Times

CINCO PAUL I needed actual musical theater individuals. I needed individuals who did eight reveals every week and had these chops, as a result of I needed everyone to do their very own singing, and I needed to seize that singing stay on set to the extent it was attainable. The quantity of expertise we have been ready to get was phenomenal and was sadly as a result of they weren’t ready to work anyplace — as a result of theaters have been shut down. In many instances, the elements have been written for these actors.

BARRY SONNENFELD When I interviewed for the job, I stated: “Look, here’s the thing. I want to shoot this entirely onstage and I want to shoot it in Vancouver because Vancouver has really great stages and really good crews, and it’s also cheaper.” What was surreal and great was that Vancouver was the one movie middle that was open after we shot. L.A. was shut down. New York was shut down.

CECILY STRONG We had to go shoot our “S.N.L.” intros proper earlier than I left for Vancouver. It’s like, you’re round New York and you’re seeing all these theaters shuttered. It’s somewhat devastating.

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KRISTIN CHENOWETH It was definitely worth the danger for me to go to Canada. I quarantined for 2 weeks the place I didn’t depart my resort room. Alan Cumming, who’s considered one of my finest buddies, was staying subsequent door to me. And we might do these sort of sing-offs within the lavatory as a result of we might hear one another, however we didn’t dare open our door.

ALAN CUMMING It was like some bizarre sitcom. It actually was hilarious.

PAUL One of the laborious issues in regards to the pandemic is that it wasn’t everyone hanging out collectively on the set on a regular basis. We weren’t ready to do this. But I bear in mind bringing Aaron over and exhibiting him an ensemble quantity, one shot we’d simply achieved. And I bear in mind him getting emotional seeing it.

AARON TVEIT To get to go and work on a musical at the moment, it was so joyous. We had the distinctive expertise of primarily doing a musical based mostly on the entire [Screen Actors Guild] protocols, and it felt completely protected. We have been in one another’s faces singing. When these cameras rolled, it was regular life.

SONNENFELD For me, it was an actual studying expertise. I truly was pressured to watch just a few extra musicals, and I’d come again to Cinco and go: “Well, hated that one. Hated ‘Carousel.’” “Don’t understand ‘Brigadoon,’ makes no sense to me.” “What do you like about ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’?”

Kristin Chenoweth, middle, with Barry Sonnenfeld, far left, and Paul, proper.Credit…Apple TV+

KEEGAN-MICHAEL KEY My relationship with basic musicals is definitely a really fond one. They excite me. They give me somewhat little bit of solace as a result of they all the time finish fantastically. In my highschool, we didn’t do performs within the drama membership. We simply did musicals. The first present I carried out in was “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” The subsequent yr, I performed Jesus in “Godspell,” and that was it. I went: “I am not going to be a veterinarian. I am going to be an actor.”

STRONG I grew up outdoors of Chicago, however my dad and I’d take loads of journeys to New York to see reveals. I feel the primary one I received to see was “Secret Garden,” and I received to go backstage. For the longest time rising up, I had a giant poster that my mother made on my wall that was all these footage from that journey and the Playbill, and it stated “Cecily on Broadway.” I’ve had nights the place I’ll be up all evening with one other good friend who’s in comedy and we discover out secretly, like, OK, you have been very into musicals rising up. I’ve spent nights singing and crying over “Into the Woods” with my good friend Sam Richardson.

CUMMING I’m not an awesome aficionado of musicals. Onstage, I’ve solely ever been in two, “Cabaret” and “The Threepenny Opera.” So I’ve received somewhat Weimar area of interest. Doing “Schmigadoon!,” I used to be type of having to be taught what the factor was I used to be parodying. Like Aaron — his character is type of based mostly on the man from “Carousel.”

TVEIT I sort of received to play Billy Bigelow somewhat bit, which was superb.

CHENOWETH All the musical numbers are somewhat little bit of an ode or a nod to different well-known musical theater songs, and mine ended up a takeoff of “Trouble in River City,” from “Music Man.” When Barry Sonnenfeld referred to as me and stated, “Cinco and everybody wants you to do this part,” I learn it, and it was hilarious. Then I checked out this music “Tribulation” and it was an 18-page patter music. He stated, “And I want you to do it in one.” In different phrases, with no cuts. And he is aware of me. So he is aware of I like a problem.

SONNENFELD It’s one steady shot for over 4 minutes. And I don’t know anybody besides Chenoweth who might pull that off that properly.

KEY “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” is my favourite musical that I’ve ever seen stay. Cinematically talking, it’s “Singin’ in the Rain.” Because “Singin’ in the Rain” is that this splendidly exuberant piece of labor. It’s an athletic piece of labor. It’s additionally an accessible piece of labor that’s on the identical time utterly inside baseball. “Schmigadoon!” is precisely that.

Ariana DeBose and Alan Cumming are two of the Broadway veterans within the forged of the collection.Credit…Apple TV+

CUMMING I’ve by no means been ready to, within the theater anyway, do this factor of “Now I’m talking to you and now I’m singing!” The trope is that individuals do this when phrases simply aren’t sufficient and they’ve to specific themselves in music. When I begin to sing my massive music within the forest with Cecily, she goes: “Oh, oh, I see. Oh, there’s a reprise!” I beloved the way it was that blatant, and it was sort of reducing all of the crap of discovering a motive to sing a music. It’s simply: It’s time to sing a music. It was actually good to do a present like this that deconstructs all that and reveals you the smoke and mirrors.

PAUL In the writers’ room, we mentioned how musicals are charming and they’re so entertaining, however they’re additionally generally dumb, and generally they’re problematic. We needed to deal with all of these issues. What if these have been actual individuals and they weren’t ready to completely be themselves as a result of they have been in a musical? The townspeople, they have been in some methods trapped. So the introduction of those two trendy individuals — we all the time needed them to change, however one of many different massive concepts was that they have been serving to to change the city a bit and transfer it ahead.

SONNENFELD I beloved the forged and the crew, and the songs are actually peppy, however there’s loads of artifice there. The fascinating factor about directing it’s, how do you embrace all that artifice however preserve the appearing completely actual? What was good is that we pulled off a really stylized present that is also type of weirdly actual.

TVEIT I by no means imagined that when it aired, Broadway wouldn’t be again but. Especially now, after we’re nonetheless primarily starved for musical theater, I do hope it’s one thing that individuals can look to as we bridge these subsequent couple of months when phases throughout the nation begin opening.

KEY My hope can be that it’s a manner of reminding everyone, hey, we’re doing this for you proper now, however please bear in mind to exit and see stay theater after we’re allowed to do this once more. We’re a pleasant stopgap, however a stopgap nonetheless.