Keegan-Michael Key and Cecily Strong Hit the Right Notes in Apple TV’s ‘Schmigaddon!’
Keegan-Michael Key and Cecily Strong take a wrong turn and end up in a magical world that is both familiar and strange in the musical comedy series “Schmigadoon!” The pair star as Josh Skinner and Melissa Gimble, two doctors whose long-term relationship, once passionate and promising, has cooled off. While on a couples backpacking trip in an attempt to reignite the flames of love, they find themselves in a surreal alternate universe inspired by the works of Rodgers and Hammerstein and other classics of the Golden Age. At first, Josh and Melissa are under the impression that they have merely taken a detour to a Colonial Williamsburg-type of theme town, but when they try to depart after an eventful overnight stay, a little leprechaun (Martin Short) sets them straight: In order to leave, they must find true love.
The first episode starts off with a flashback to the time Josh and Melissa first connected at the hospital. It’s a scene right out of a cheesy old film involving a mass amount of candy. Four years later, things have gotten stale. A jaunt into a musical world may seem like something that would breathe new life into their relationship, but the jaded pair are out of their element, Josh more so than Melissa, at least in the beginning. It also doesn’t help that Mildred Layton (Kristin Chenoweth, an actress who has gotten grief in the past for her own outspoken Christian beliefs), the stern wife of the town’s pastor (Fred Armisen), insists that they follow some lame law pertaining to unmarried couples and take separate rooms at the local inn.
Schmigadoon might be a G-rated paradise, at least on the surface, but that doesn’t mean that it’s free of temptation. Melissa catches the eye of Danny Bailey (Aaron Tveit), a ride operator based on Billy Bigelow from “Carousel,” while Josh’s dad jokes crack up friendly young waitress Betsy McDonough (Dove Cameron). It is at the end of episode one when the couple have that fateful meeting with the leprechaun, and being a couple going on four years, it may seem like Josh and Melissa have already found true love, but it turns out to be not that simple. After Melissa declares her love and Josh half-heartedly does the same, they, shockingly (or not), do not return to the real world. This leads to another hilarious musical number, one in which the townspeople incorporate the couple’s fight.
Episode two sees Josh and Melissa going native, eventually exploring things with Betsy and Danny, respectively. It still remains to be seen if Schmigadoon will change them, or the other way around. What is certain is that the series is a great showcase for Strong and her musical gifts. She plays well off of Key, who kills as a fish even further out of water. Musical comedies can be hit or miss, but creators Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio find the perfect balance of pureness and snarkiness. It also helps that Key and Strong seem to just be playing exaggerated versions of themselves.
The supporting players include the always delightful Alan Cumming, who is especially enchanting here as Aloysius Menlove, the mayor who has a secret, but one can probably guess what it is just by looking at his name. Rising star Ariana DeBose, who previously showed off her musical chops in “The Prom,” also gets laughs as school teacher Emma Tate, known in town as an old maid due to her being sans husband at the ripe old age of 28.
“Schmigadoon!” begins streaming July 16 with new episodes premiering Fridays on Apple TV+.