Melissa and Josh (Cicely Strong and Keegan-Michael Key) are still stuck in Schmigadoon, a magical place steeped in some of musical theatre's most beloved tropes and figures. The pair discover they can only leave Schmigadoon and return to normal life when and if they find true love, which turns out to be more than they bargained for by the fourth episode, now streaming on AppleTV+.
Schmigadoon! dropped the first two episodes of the six-episode series on AppleTV+ July 16, following with weekly episodes on Fridays. And Playbill, lovers of all things musical, are glued to the screen trying to spot all the spoofs, allusions, and Easter eggs.
Read on as two Playbill staffers go scene-by-scene calling out plot points and the Golden Age musicals that inspired them.
The moment before:
Josh has tried taking just about every female in town over the footbridge, hoping that one will meet the mystical "true love" requirement and become his ticket out—every female except for local old maid schoolmarm Emma (Ariana DeBose). Without anywhere else to stay, Melissa has hit up the local doctor after hearing he's looking for a nurse.
EPISODE 4: Suddenly
Logan: The episode starts with a flashback to three years and nine months before Josh and Melissa got to Schmigadoon, with our pair seeing a friend’s crappy downtown play. Whilst this isn’t a reference to a Broadway musical specifically, it is a direct reference to the lives of each and every person with friends in the theatre—a shared trauma, if you will.
Talaura: They are at The Lonely Room Theater, which is a reference to Jud’s big, brooding solo in Oklahoma!. I’m not going to read too much into that, because that song is super intense. Maybe just an allusion to all those floor-creakin’, door-squeakin’, rodent-inhabited empty downtown theatres. (j.k. We love you, Alphabet City.)
Logan: That song was cut for the movie version, and I'm still bitter about it.
Talaura: Melissa and Josh stand outside the theatre and say “I love you” for the first time. There is snow and romance in the air.
Then we’re back in Schmigadoon with Josh stopping by the schoolhouse because he heard there’s a room for let there. (Note: The statehood dates written on the chalkboard are for some of classic musical theatre's favorite states: Oklahoma, Maine, Iowa, Indiana, and New York.) Schoolmarm old maid Emma (Ariana DeBose) grills him a bit about crossing the footbridge with every girl in town before she offers him the room in exchange for handyman services. These two have the Marian-Harold, Sarah-Sky dynamic...the prim and proper (sadder-wiser) smart gal versus the worldly con man.
Logan: This footbridge that is the exit from Schmigadoon is taking on some Music Man vibes as well now. The River City footbridge is the primary spot for young lovers looking for a spot to, umm… hug... and it’s where Marian sings “‘Till There Was You.”
Jaime Camil's Doc Lopez’s place, Melissa is getting acquainted with the doctor’s old-timey medical tools. We’re also learning that the Doc is a pretty old-fashioned, controlling, and stern taskmaster. Look out, Melissa—it’s a [Captain Von] Trap[p]!
Talaura: The elder Lopezes try to sneak a tube of lube because they are feeling amorous. Doc Lopez is not having it. A young unmarried woman very with-child comes in, but Doc’s not having that either. There will be no children out of wedlock! (A sentiment that drives plots from not only in Golden Age musicals, but even up to Grease...if not beyond. I’m sure there’s a grad thesis somewhere on that.)
At school, the kids are practicing their spelling. There's a girl named Zaneeta and a boy named Tommy, and Carson busts out a Shakespeare quote that Harold Hill butchers. Just a few more Music Man call outs thrown in for good measure.
Logan: Josh arrives for work and can’t fix the door—cue song, of course. Thematically this song is giving me some “(Just A) Spoonful of Sugar” from Mary Poppins, but musically we’re more in the jazzy pre-Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals of the ‘30s and ‘40s.
Talaura: All those advice and be a good person songs: Some of the musical phrasing reminds me of “It’s a Lovely Day Today” from Call Me Madam.
Logan: And of course there’s also lots of tap dancing happening on desks, which is probably a nod to “Moses Supposes” in Singin’ in the Rain, another beloved movie-musical number that takes place in a classroom.
Talaura: Emma and the children end the song with a fit of giggles. “Why are they laughing?” Josh asks. “Nothing even remotely funny just happened.” It’s called joy, Josh. Get into it. (Also, that’s just how a lot of group numbers in movie musicals end. I don’t know why either.)
Logan: I think it’s a way of getting that end-of-the-number release that a live audience's applause usually provides. Or maybe singing and dancing is just fun, one of the two.
Talaura: Back in the town square there’s a Multi-Faith Bake Sale (Presbyterian and Methodist) and Reverend Layton leads Mayor Menlove into temptation. They are definitely into...rhubarb squares.
Logan: I love rhubarb squares too—go figure!
Then we're high in the mountains as Melissa journeys to find the unwed mother from earlier so she can give her more care. It is a testament to how truly visually iconic the Sound of Music film is that you know what world we’re in the moment you see Melissa in that gray dress backed by snow-capped mountains. I guess this is more of a reference to The Sound of Music: Live!, though, because those mountains are definitely not real!
We find out that Nancy is living with a sailor, one who apologizes for speaking in vulgarities when he uses phrases like “dad gum,” but thinks Melissa goes way too far when she dares say the word “vagina” out loud. It would seem that neither of these fine folks have had much if any sex education—as someone who grew up in Texas, I have no idea what that’s like!—so Melissa solidifies the Sound of Music moment by picking up a guitar and singing a near direct quote of “Do Re Mi” with new lyrics centered on our reproductive organs. Delightful AND informative!
Talaura: Back at the school, Josh is trying his best with all his heart (he mocks the lyric). Betsy arrives with her gun-toting Papa demanding again that Josh marry her. Emma takes his gun away—“Do you really think so little of your daughter that you feel the need to threaten men to get them to marry her?”—and Papa retreats. Emma and Josh discuss modernity and brassieres. He gets a “what’s it like in the city” song cue, complete with music intro, but he shuts it down. The man will. not. sing.
Logan: Meanwhile some of us will sing even without a proper musical cue, as anyone who has worked with me at the Playbill office can attest.
Melissa is on her own at the doctor’s office while Doc Lopez is out fishing. Josh drops by looking for help figuring out how to get out of Schmigadoon, but refuses to give in to singing even when Melissa guesses that’s the only way he’ll find true love living in a musical. They brainstorm which Broadway leading man character Josh should inhabit to win over Emma, from Harold Hill, a morally adrift narcissist, to The King of Siam, a morally adrift narcissist—it’s almost like a pattern has emerged! Josh settles on finding little Carson a trumpet, just like Harold Hill does for The Music Man’s Winthrop.
Talaura: Nancy and her Seaman arrive, and Nurse Melissa (“I’m a doctor”) delivers the baby. Josh helps and is impressed with her. They share a moment—the underscore is telling us they are sharing a moment. But then he skedaddles. Doc Lopez returns and he’s all mad that Melissa delivered the baby against his orders and that Melissa gave his parents the lube. They argue about rules and boundaries and Melissa says she’s going to teach Doc Lopez’s parents kama sutra. Ole Doc Lopez promptly dies, while doing the Egyptian Hucklebuck.
Logan: If there's anything older stories hate more than unwed mothers, it's people engaging in sex just for pleasure!
Talaura: At the funeral, we learn that Young Doc Lopez’s wife died two years ago, and Melissa softens a little learning this.
And we get some more life philosophy from the Rev. Living life to the fullest, following our hearts, using everything God has blessed us with, don’t waste a single minute. Mayor Menlove takes the podium and comes out.
Logan: Honestly, I doubt this is the first coming out to be done in song.
Meanwhile, Josh hasn’t been able to find a trumpet, but does find a kazoo, which he tells Carson is better because you don’t have to take lessons or practice to play it—if only Josh knew about the Harold Hill's Think System! Carson confides that he has been having a rough time with bullies, something it turns out Josh endured as a youngster as well. Josh tells him to persevere and to remember that those bullies don’t matter, and Carson runs off happily playing his kazoo.
Talaura: Melissa has changed out of her weird nurse hair and hat and she meets Doc in the gazebo, a la Maria and Captain Von Trapp.
Logan: Or Liesl and Rolf, for that matter. That gazebo has seen some stuff.
Talaura: Doc Lopez realizes he’s been too controlling and he has changed. Simultaneously, Josh is trying to fix the schoolhouse’s seesaw, and Emma comes out to thank him for helping Carson. “Josh Skinner, you are not the man I thought you were.”
Logan: You know it’s real when an old timey heroine uses a man’s first AND last name.
Now our foursome starts a dual love song, with Melissa and Doc Lopez in the gazebo and Josh and Emma in the schoolyard, though in true theatrical fashion, we’re getting simultaneous shots of them side by side with Melissa and Josh reaching for eachother, even though the other isn’t there. This choreo is also borrowing heavily from Sound of Music’s Ländler, the real-world Austrian folk dance that Captain Von Trapp dances with Maria when we start to really see them falling for eachother.
Talaura: This really reminded me of “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” from Guys and Dolls. It’s a peppier, cuter love duet than some of the big heartfelt professions. It’s new romance. There is some really classic posturing going on here, too. The singer professing love standing behind the object of affection, who looks out, unsure.
Logan: See, my nerdy brain was stuck in The Sound of Music, and I was geeking out on that song sounding far less like the movie’s love duet, “Something Good,” than it does the bouncy, lesser-known “An Ordinary Couple,” the stage version’s love duet that almost no one ever performs with the show anymore.
Both couples kiss, but Melissa and Josh never sing—that feels important. It’s snowing, which I can’t think of a specific reference for.
Talaura: It’s their own reference! It was snowing at the theatre when Melissa and Josh first professed their love! BUT, even though this is a lighter love song, it still sounds real—if I were to believe the music and the dancing, these couples end up together. That can’t be right. This is actually making me kind of nervous.
Logan: But but but they used dance and visual imagery as a metaphor and they reached for eachother! I think it’s going to be okay, Talaura.
"Suddenly," the fourth episode of Schmigadoon, is streaming now on AppleTV+.