'Tis true, ye won't be leaving soon
Within its borders ye are bound
Until at last true love ye found
But till ye find it, ye must stay
Where's life's a musical every day!"
Doctors Josh (Keegan-Michael Key) and Melissa (Cecily Strong)'s four-year-long relationship is faltering. While on a hike, they stumble upon the mysterious town of Schmigadoon, which appears to be in a perpetual Golden Age musical productionnote . While there, they meet a host of colorful theatrical archetypes — the friendly mayor Aloysius Menlove (Alan Cumming), the hapless reverend Howard Layton (Fred Armisen) and his imperious wife Mildred (Kristin Chenoweth), local "bad boy" Danny Bailey (Aaron Tveit), perky Farmer's Daughter Betsy (Dove Cameron), gentle schoolmarm Emma Tate (Ariana DeBose), and intelligent but old-fashioned Doc Lopez (Jaime Camil). However, they're soon informed by a Leprechaun (Martin Short) that they cannot leave Schmigadoon until they find true love...
The show premiered in July 2021.
Schmigadoon! provides examples of:
- Actor Allusion: In the sixth episode, Emma calls New York "the greatest city in the world" like Hamilton does. Her actress, Ariana DeBose, was a member of the original ensemble.
- Affectionate Parody: Of classic midcentury musicals, particularly those about small towns (Oklahoma!, Carousel, The Music Man and Brigadoon) but also taking inspiration from works like The Wizard of Oz, Guys and Dolls, The Sound of Music and and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Schmigadoon parodies and plays straight many common Golden Age tropes, while Josh and Melissa are the modern Audience Surrogates whose reactions to the goings-on provide commentary on the works' outdated politics, hokey song topics, and earnest emotion.
- Ambiguous Ending: While we do see Josh and Melissa crossing the bridge in the finale, we don't exactly find out if they found true love or if they even made it back to the woods.
- Armor-Piercing Question: In a quiet moment in the middle of "Lover's Spat" Melissa asks Josh if he believes they aren't true love. His attempt at dodging the question convinces her that he doesn't.
- As the Good Book Says...: Howard, being the town reverend, uses a Bible quote to give Josh advice about love.
- Bait-and-Switch: Along with Melissa, the audience briefly meets Doc Lopez (the elderly small-town doctor) in the opening song. Out of options in the fourth episode, Melissa trudges along to his practice, resigned to how after all her education, she's just going to wind up as his nurse. The old man opens the door, then reveals that the Doc Lopez hiring a nurse is his handsome son Jorge.
- The Big Rotten Apple: Emma's opinion of New York, where Josh and Melissa are from.Josh: I really need to get back to New York.
Emma: But you can't! I mean, it isn't safe. It's filled with gambling and crime and poor souls who've tried to make it big but can't go back home because of foolish pride.
Josh: See, that's what I love about New York.
- Birth/Death Juxtaposition: Shortly after Melissa delivers a baby, she encourages Doc Lopez's father to have wilder sex with his wife. Smash Cut to the old man's funeral.
- Break-Up/Make-Up Scenario: Josh and Melissa break up in the second episode then go on to have parallel romantic journeys: they first try to move on with people based on attraction (Betsy and Danny respectively), then form deeper, more intellectual and emotional connections with Emma and Jorge. But at the last minute, they realize what they really want to do is work on their relationship, and try to cross the bridge together.
- Butt-Monkey: Pete the Milkman is the perennial offscreen victim of projectiles, with characters yelling "Sorry, Pete!" when they see that they've hit/shot him.
- *Click* Hello: The second episode ends with Farmer McDonough crashing his daughter Betsy's picnic with Josh and pulling his gun at him after catching them kissing:You better start proposing, son.
- Colorblind Casting: Lampshaded; Melissa points out that the musical theater ensemble is populated by people of color as evidence that Schmigadoon is semi-modern.
- Crowd Song:
- "Schmigadoon!", the Welcoming Song sung by the town ensemble.
- "Corn Puddin'", a Call-and-Response Song between the town men and women about their love for corn pudding.
- "Lover's Spat", where the townspeople discuss lovers' quarrels through verses and choreography.
- "Cross that Bridge", where all the single women in the town sing about the importance of getting married quickly and cross the bridge with Josh in his effort to find true love and leave Schmigadoon.
- "How We Change/Finale", the finale number where the Schmigadoonians resolve to be more open about themselves. This is signified by a more modern style — instead of the midcentury numbers they've been singing all season, this one is more in the vein of late-century numbers by Stephen Sondheim and Stephen Schwartz.
- Dance of Romance: "Suddenly", a love number where Emma dances with Josh and Doc Lopez dances with Melissa. The number incorporates elements of the Ländler in its choreography as a visual nod to a romantic dance in The Sound of Music.
- Dead Sparks: At the beginning of the show, Josh and Melissa have been dating for four years and their relationship is in a rut.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance:
- Josh and Melissa are modern doctors from the "real world" who are at odds with Schmigadoon's patriarchal, old-timey values (eg. reacting negatively to the suggestion a man should smack his girlfriend if they are fighting). The villainous Mildred Layton keeps a stern eye on any deviations from the puritan handbook (even destroying books).
- Melissa, being an OB-GYN, often finds herself in conflict with the town's outdated views on gender and sexuality. She makes a scene at a picnic basket auction (really a front for buying a date with a girl) and nudges the mayor to come out of the closet. Against Doc Lopez's orders, she delivers a baby conceived out of wedlock (even giving them a sex education lession in the process) and encourages his elderly parents to have sex.
- Distant Duet: "Suddenly", sung by Emma (at the school) and Doc Lopez (outside his practice) to Josh and Melissa respectively. At one point Split Screen is used so the couples can dance together.
- Dream Ballet: Defied. Melissa is by herself in the wilderness and about to have a formative moment, when the lighting turns purple and a similarly dressed dancer approaches her. She then puts a stop to the whole affair, disparaging dream ballets and saying she has no time for them. The lighting reverts and the dancer walks away.
- Driving a Desk: Countess Von Blerkom drives an obviously stationary vehicle over an obviously projected background. She even takes a break from driving during her musical number!
- Dunce Cap: Emma, the schoolteacher, puts a red dunce cap on Josh during "With All of Your Heart" (a number about how he shouldn't give up so easily).
- Everything Except Most Things: When Josh is in a panic over Farmer McDonough trying to kill him after breaking off his engagement to Betsy (which the farmer had forced at gunpoint in the first place), Melissa tries to reassure him telling him that "nobody gets killed in a musical"... only to immediately defeat her own point by citing four well-known musicals in which someone does get killed. An even more alarmed Josh replies, "that sounds like all the musicals!"
- Excited Show Title!: Complete with exclamation mark.
- Family Relationship Switcheroo: Carson is Emma's illegitimate son, not her much younger brother. Nobody in the town knows, not even Carson himself.
- During the town bake sale, Aloysius buys some of Howard's rhubarb squares and shares them with him, to the latter's delight. Howard is in love with him.
- During "Tribulation", Mildred includes "wanton women having children out of wedlock, rowdy men using filthy language" as one of the things going to ruin Schmigadoon. The finale reveals that Nancy, the woman pregnant out of wedlock because her family didn't approve of the way her sailor boyfriend swore, is secretly her daughter.
- Gilligan Cut:
- At the beginning, the managers of the retreat Melissa and Josh are attending warn them not to wander too far and reassure them that the weather will clear up soon. Cut to Josh and Melissa being lost for hours as rain pours around them.
- Melissa announces her intention of encouraging Doc Lopez's parents to have sex, ending with "And finally, in spite of you, they are going to truly live!" Cut to Doc Lopez Sr. in a casket, after his heart gives out during sex.
- Graceful Loser: Subverted and lampshaded. Based on her knowledge of musicals, Melissa assumes that Doctor Lopez's fiancé, the Countess Von Blerkom, will gracefully step aside once she realizes that the Doc is in love with someone else. She is wrong and winds up stranded in the middle of nowhere, having been forced out of the car at gunpoint by a determined Countess.
- Have a Gay Old Time:
- After Mayor Aloysius Menlove sings a song that's obviously about loving men, Melissa asks him if he's gay. Being an old-timey musical character, he interprets this as her asking if he's happy, so he responds that he tries to be.
- Riffing on the same joke, Aloysius's wife Florence, who sings a song about her "queer" husband — "queer" in the sense of strange, because he's not like the other men in town and is instead kind, gentle, and In Touch with His Feminine Side, even if he's not as sexually aggressive as she would like. Throughout the song Melissa's facial expressions show the differences in how she and Florence define "queer".
- Hidden Depths: As it turns out, many of the townspeople are more than their two-dimensional theater roles: for example, Harvey the innkeeper would like to be an actor. Letting these secrets and facts air out leads to the resolution to be better in the more modern finale number "This is How We Change".
- The central premise is a homage to Brigadoon (note the title), about two tourists who chance upon a mysterious, stuck-in-the-past town that only appears every century. Instead of finding Brigadoon through true love, one has to find true love to leave Schmigadoon.
- The eponymous song "Schmigadoon!" is a tribute to the same from Oklahoma!, beginning with an extended note and ending with the spelling of the title.
- Danny's solo, "You Can't Tame Me", is a send-up of "If I Loved You" from Carousel, where a rake denies his attraction to the heroine but hypothesizes what would happen if they got together. It even begins with same way, with Danny accusing Melissa of trying to get him to fall for her the same way Billy accuses Julie of trying to get him to marry her.
- His reprise "You Done Tamed Me" has a section wherein he worries about how he'll support his and Melissa's hypothetical child, and vows to get money even if he has to steal it. This is exactly what Billy sings about in his solo "Soliloquy".
- "Va-Gi-Na," Melissa's sex-education song, is a very-direct homage to "Do-Re-Mi" from The Sound of Music, even set among the mountains.
- "Tribulation" riffs on The Music Man's "Ya Got Trouble", where one character induces a moral panic in the townsfolk by warning them of incoming corruption and devious activities.
- "I Always, Always, Never Get My Man" shares the same verse structure as Kiss Me, Kate's "Always True To You In My Fashion".
- Inherently Attractive Profession: Played With. The McDonough sisters fawn over the fact that Josh is a doctor, but the townspeople are less impressed whenever Melissa brings up her own medical credentials due to Deliberate Values Dissonance.
- Instant Birth: Just Add Water!: Parodied. Melissa and Josh deliver a baby and note that it was an incredibly quick birth and that the baby even came out dry. They Hand Wave it to the musical universe they're stuck in.
- Literal Metaphor: Before "Cross that Bridge", Josh spins a yarn to the unmarried women of the town about a family tradition involving crossing a bridge to know that he wants to end up with a woman (really, he's trying to find "true love" to get out of Schmigadoon). The women, who have chalked up being unmarried to "crossing that bridge when they get there", sing that in this case, they are literally crossing a bridge to get married."It's not a metaphor
Oh no, it's something more
It's a literal bridge!"
- Love Triangle: Between Doc Lopez, Melissa, and Countess Von Blerkom, to whom Doc Lopez is engaged.
- Meet Cute: The very first scenes depict Josh and Melissa's first meeting. Melissa's chocolate bar got stuck in the hospital vending machine and Josh instructed her to kick it in a certain spot. When she does so, snacks come pouring out of the machine. Sparks fly between them and they proceed to date for many years.
- Minor Character, Major Song: Lampshaded by musical theater fan Melissa, who notes that Countess Gabriele Van Blerkom (the Baroness-esque Disposable Fiancé character) gets a showstopping number to herself for some reason.
- Moral Guardians: The Mothers Against the Future, who prefer to keep the town old-fashioned and conservative. They dispose of books they consider bad influences, subvert the mayor's authority, and dislike Josh and Melissa's newfangled ideas.
- Musical World Hypotheses: A mix of "Alternate Universe", "All in their Heads", and "All-Maestro Cast". The musical numbers only happen in the magical town of Schmigadoon, where Josh and Melissa are trapped. Danny reacts with confusion when Melissa congratulates him on his song, indicating he wasn't physically aware he was performing, but Melissa is conscious of how she makes up verses on the fly.
- Not Staying for Breakfast: After Melissa's one-night stand with Danny, she ends up leaving his house without tasting the breakfast he made when he starts freaking out about how is he going to provide for their child (Melissa tries in vain to tell him she has an IUD, so she's very unlikely to actually be pregnant).
- Ode to Food: "Corn Puddin'" is sung by the townsfolk about how much they love the savory dish, with a sprinkle of Double Entendre on top.
- Old People Are Nonsexual: Doc Lopez tells his elderly parents that they are "too old for the act of love" when they try to borrow lube.
- One-Night-Stand Pregnancy: Subverted. After Danny and Melissa's night together, Danny starts worrying about how to provide for their potential baby... all the while ignoring Melissa, who's trying to tell him that there won't be a baby because she has an IUD.
- Out with a Bang: Melissa defiantly informs Doc Lopez that contrary to his way of thinking, his parents can and should have sex, and she'll help them expand their sex position knowledge. The scene then cuts to Old Doc Lopez's funeral as the Reverend gently announces to the congregation that the old man's heart gave out while performing the Egyptian hucklebuck.
- Overprotective Dad: Farmer McDonough is introduced surrounded by his multiple lovely daughters and threatening people with his shotgun. Deconstructed by Emma, who points out that in doing so he does not give his daughters any agency.
- Politically Correct History: Inverted and played with. Schmigadoon appears to be stuck in the late 19th century, with people of different colors who would not be allowed certain positions in real life, (not to mention the mayor being homosexual would have caused a huge scandal) but the possibility of the town being semi-modern and accepting of all races is a rather acceptable case.
- Practically Different Generations: Emma, who is in her late twenties, is schoolteacher to her elementary school-aged brother. Subverted — this is a cover story as he is her illegitimate son.
- Real Is Brown: Relatively speaking. Flashbacks to Josh and Melissa's relationship in the "real world" are lit darker and without much saturation, in contrast to the bright artificiality of Schmigadoon.
- Romantic False Lead: Danny and Jorge for Melissa; Betsy and Emma for Josh. All four helped Melissa and Josh realize that they wanted to get back together and work on their relationship.
- Running Gag:
- Someone throwing a projectile will inevitably hit Pete, who will yell "Ow" offscreen, followed by "Sorry, Pete!"
- Melissa saying "Yee-honk" to surprising developments.
- Shotgun Wedding: Farmer McDonough catches Josh on a picnic with his daughter Betsy and forces him to propose at gunpoint.
- Melissa asks why an old-timey musical town should be any weirder than Thor summoning Mjolnir.
- Josh describes Schmigadoon as "if The Walking Dead were also Glee".Melissa: You watched Glee?
Josh: I was aware of it, yes.
- A number of the dramatis personae of Schmigadoon are inspired by classic musical theater characters:
- The leprechaun who explains the rules of the premise alludes to Og.
- Farmer McDonough to Andrew Carnes, as the overprotective father of a flirtatious daughter who forces an outsider to propose to her with the barrel end of his gun.
- Nancy shares her name with the female lead of Oliver!, though she's not as straightforward an homage as the characters listed above.
- Anytime writing is seen on town signage or on Emma's chalkboard, it's likely a reference to Golden Age composers. Even something like a list of states and their dates of admission into the Union is a shout-out note .
- Snow Means Love: Josh and Melissa first confessed their love to each other in the snow.
- Take It to the Bridge: The protagonists enter Schmigadoon by crossing a mysterious bridge in the forest.
- Theme Naming:
- Welcoming Song: The eponymous song, "Schmigadoon!", where the townspeople welcome Josh and Melissa to the town and introduce some of the noteworthy folks.
- The Unreveal: The finale never reveals what Schmigadoon's deal is: how it came to be or why it's stuck in a Golden Age musical. We also don't see whether or not Josh and Melissa are actually able to leave.