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REVIEW: 'Schmigadoon!' earns its exclamation point

REVIEW: 'Schmigadoon!' earns its exclamation point

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The folks in "Schmigadoon!" throw in dances with their elections.

As fictitious towns go, Schmigadoon is a lot like River City.

Residents there are uptight and judgmental, production numbers break out at the drop of a bowler and nothing is so complicated it can’t be tackled with a song.

For musical theater buffs, the AppleTV+ series “Schmigadoon!” is like a visual “Jeopardy!” exam: Banquet City.

There’s a little “Music Man” here, a little “Oklahoma!” there and a whole lot of “Brigadoon” everywhere else. Bits from “South Pacific,” “Sound of Music” and other shows from Broadway’s golden age merge to make one delightful spoof.

Created by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, the fun begins when a pair of doctors go on a camping trip and wind up in a goofy turn-of-the-century town that won’t let them leave until they find true love.

“It must be something they do for tourists -- like Colonial Williamsburg,” says Melissa (Cecily Strong) at the sight of the first big song and dance routine. Josh (Keegan-Michael Key) wants nothing to do with it, since he hates musicals. But the quick exit falls apart when the town rapscallion, Danny (Aaron Tveit), slips in and woos Melissa and a seemingly underage waitress, Betsy (Dove Cameron), shows interest in Josh. Sooner than you can say “trouble,” the town’s moralist (and preacher’s wife) appears and lays down the law. Played by Kristin Chenowth, Mrs. Layton is cross between Eulalie McKechnie Shinn and the Wicked Witch of the West. She gets a Harold Hill moment, too, and has a group of harpies who cackle on cue.

In six episodes, director Barry Sonnenfeld points up every incongruity known to Rodgers and Hammerstein. A school marm (Ariana DeBose) gets a big tap number; that rapscallion woos Melissa with a “Carousel”-like number that admits, “I choose to live acapella….you can’t tame me.”

It’s all so goofy even Josh would have to warm to its finer points.

A host of Broadway stars (including Jane Krakowski, Alan Cumming and Ann Harada) waltz in and out of scenes until you wonder which shows weren’t referenced.

The two outsiders also get a chance to sing and dance and become wrapped up in the contrived situations designed to prompt jazz hands and teach lessons.

In the process, you realize just how backwards these classic musical worlds were. The folks in Schmigadoon (population 167) learn a few things from their visitors.

The slam-dunk mayor’s race gets a challenger; the school marm reveals a big secret. By the time the streets are rolled up, we’re ready for Broadway to return.

Thanks to some inspired choreography by Christopher Gattelli, “Schmigadoon!” is as excitable as its exclamation point and just as worthy.

“Schmigadoon!” airs on AppleTV+.


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