The creators of the music, design and choreography for Apple TV+’s musical series Schmigadoon! drew on classic stage and screen musicals.
Co-creator Cinco Paul, production designer Bo Welch, composer Christopher Willis and choreographer Christopher Gatelli each shared their musical influences on a panel for the Apple TV+ series at Leak Herald’s Contenders Television: The Nominees awards-season event.
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Paul said he first conceived of Schmigadoon! 25 years ago, but it took the streaming content era to find it a home on Apple. He had the idea of a modern couple finding a town like Brigadoon that was always a musical, so he could satirize the musicals he loved.
“It’s kind of like you feel about your parents,” Paul said. “You love them so much but occasionally they say things that make you cringe. A lot of love towards these musicals but we also wanted to poke fun at things that are problematic or dumb about them or corny.”
Paul wrote the music and lyrics for the songs in Schmigadoon! He showed Welch a marathon of movie musicals, and Welch aimed to embody their surface detail, while showing there was a bit more underneath.
“I just approached it as if I was in the ‘40s, ‘50s and designing this musical,” Welch said. “Not trying to be funny. Just trying to make it beautiful, idealized and with enough layers to it so as you peel back layers, you see there are problems in this idealized world.”
Willis specifically studied the way instrumental score worked in musicals. Through the works of Rogers and Hammerstein, he understood that the score often overlaps multiple songs from the show.
“In the gap between the phrases you might actually have another song, or even right on top of each other,” Willis said. “In the “Entr’acte” of Oklahoma in the middle, ‘Surry with a Fringe’ appears and ‘People Will Say We’re In Love’ exactly at the same time. This is serious stuff.”
In choreographing the dances in Schmigadoon!, Gatelli kept in mind that the characters played by Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key were the outsiders. They join in the fun of Schmigadoon, but they have not been living a musical their entire lives.
“I wanted to just keep a shred of them human because they wouldn’t just pop into this town and be as amazing as everyone else,” Gatelli said. “As great as they were, I love that it was slightly a little rough around the edges because it kept them human in this world that was so idealistic. They both got that.”
Check back Monday for the panel video.