Some More Schmigadoon! By Peter Filichia
Luckily, we don’t have to wait 100 years for the next episodes of SCHMIGADOON!
What’s more, the soundtrack from Episodes Two through Six are now readily available.
Cinco Paul’s tribute/spoof of Golden Age musicals will have you hear a song that will drive you bananas as you try to place the song that inspired it. This happened to me with the vamp of “Somewhere Someone is Waiting for You.” Torturous hours turned into days before I snapped my fingers and exclaimed “Some Enchanted Evening!”
Wouldn’t you know that this happed while I was on a subway? Glares and quizzical looks greeted me, so be careful when you try to identify the songs that inspired the SCHMIGADOON score.
I did better on “Lovers’ Spat,” which Kristin Chenoweth sings before a chorus comes in with “Then she says” and “Then he says.” Yes, that’s an homage to “Been a Long Day” from HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING. On the original cast album, secretary Smitty reads the thoughts of colleague Rosemary (“Now she says …”) and J. Pierrepont Finch, the clerk (but, as they sing in AVENUE Q, “Only for now”).
Ah, but that 1961 recording didn’t have room for the delicious reprise that Bud Frump imagines between his Uncle Jasper B. Biggley and the great man’s paramour Hedy La Rue (who’s been around la rue more than a couple of times). Luckily, the 1995 revival cast album has it.
Alan Cumming plays a character who seems to be a second cousin to BRIGADOON’s Mr. Lundie or GUYS AND DOLLS’ Arvide. He’s the older man who dispenses oh-so-wise advice that younger people who, in so many musicals, seem to be incapable of realizing on their own.
(Although anyone would be off the hook for not knowing what a lickerish tooth is.)
Then there’s Maria von Trapp, either courtesy of Mary Martin in 1959 or Rebecca Luker in 1998. Remember how she told Liesl, who was disappointed by her boyfriend, to “wait a year or two” and all would be well? Liesl dutifully responded “I’ll wait a year or two,” immediately believing that Maria is right.
Well, maybe … but most adolescents who would assume that all would never be well, let alone in 365 and 730 days. Besides, to a girl who’s not yet seventeen (as a certain lyric tells us), a year or two seems longer than a lifetime (or sitting through a performance of IN MY LIFE).
However, even Emma (Ariana DeBose), who hasn’t remotely met middle-age, is old enough to give a pithy opinion or two. “So here’s a slice of good advice that I’m obliged to impart,” she sings in Episode Four’s “With All of Your Heart.”
Meanwhile, Melissa (Cecily Strong) and Josh (Aaron Tveit) aren’t the only ones who “Enjoy the Ride,” for we do, too. Ms. Strong is aptly named, for she plays one of those featured female characters who shows a zest for life without being the least bit wanton.
(Think Cleo in THE MOST HAPPY FELLA. When she sings about a “Big D,” she merely means Dallas.)
However, in the “Enjoy the Ride” reprise, Ms. Strong is dealing with another fella who’s unnerved by her frank approach – just as Clark Kent was by Sydney in IT’S A BIRD, IT’S A PLANE. IT’S SUPERMAN’s “You’ve Got Possibilities.” Note too that after Melissa delivers a saucy lyric (which involves “a pair of pants”), the orchestrator has the brass give out that specific sound that manages to comment “Now wasn’t THAT line ribald?”
In the concept album of THE LIFE, “The Composer’s Turn” has Cy Coleman warble and play three selections from his upcoming musical. Mr. Paul follows suit; the soundtrack from Episode Three begins with him singing his “To the Right, to the Left.” While that lyric may seem to reference the conservatives’ song in 1776, it has a techo feel more than a theatrical one. However, considering what’s going on (we won’t spoil it for you), the sound of this is, to quote a famous fairy tale, jussssst right.
“You Done Tamed Me,” Tveit sings, acknowledging another musical theater trope: unapologetically incorrect grammar. Lena Horne’s confident “Ain’t It the Truth?” from JAMAICA, Prez’ spirited “Her Is” in THE PAJAMA GAME and Adelaide’s overcompensation on “Now doesn’t that kind of apply to you and I?” in GUYS AND DOLLS’ “Marry the Man Today” – well, we got a million of them.
The song mirrors those in which men, after struggling to resist romantic feelings, must surrender to them. (“The Man I Used to Be” in PIPE DREAM and the title song of GIGI are fine examples.) However, no matter how much Tveit’s character professes his ardor (in a modest version of CAROUSEL’s “Soliloquy”), the object of his affection isn’t affected. That doesn’t change when he’s already talking about their child who’s about as real as George and Martha’s in VIRGINIA WOOLF.
Ann Harada, who in 2003 gave us an early Christmas present via her Christmas Eve from AVENUE Q, sings “He’s a Queer One, That Man O’ Mine.” This joins another CAROUSEL song with one from DAMES AT SEA. The best part is hearing Harada sing that “O.”
Instead of either sitting down or rocking the boat, Melissa decides to “Cross That Bridge.” Yes, when a character is down, the time is ripe for an inspirational rave-up, a la “One Brick at a Time” (BARNUM), “I Won’t Let It Happen Again” (MAGGIE FLYNN) or “We Need a Little Christmas” (MAME). The best example comes when BELLS ARE RINGING’s Ella Peterson sings “I’m Goin’ Back” in her great eleven o’clock number, when what she really means is “I’m Goin’ Forward.”
But Melissa can’t help lamenting that she’s already twenty-three and single. Well, how does she think Daisy Mae in LI’L ABNER feels? The pride of Dogpatch is pushing eighteen and Abner still hasn’t posed the question, as we hear in “I’m Past My Prime.”
Mid-way through “Cross That Bridge,” out comes the aging soprano who still has plenty of life in her – a la Miss Jones who enhances the middle section of HOW TO SUCCEED’s “Brotherhood of Man.” That’s an eleven o’clock number that makes you stay up past midnight to hear it over and over again.
“Suddenly” is a love song that starts with Doc (Jaime Camil) singing before– need I add – Emma gets her section. You won’t be surprised to hear what comes next: dance music. As Richard Rodgers was fond of saying, in film, characters go to bed, but in the musical theater, they dance.
If Easy Listening were still a player on the charts, “You Make Me Wanna Sing” – especially through Keegan-Michael Key’s sensitive rendition – would be a Top Ten (or higher) hit. No, not all of SCHMIGADOON! Is out to be inherently goofy.
Episode Five delivers “Tribulation” — with a capital “T” and that rhymes with “C” and that stands for Chenoweth, who delivers it solidly. Next comes The Countess (Jane Krakowski) telling us that she’s always true to herself in her fashion through “I Always, Always Never Get My Man.”
So SCHMIGADOON! delivers the unexpected among the expected. And nothing – absolutely NOTHING – is expected about the “Do-Re-Mi” parody found in Episode Four. Let’s leave it at that – but don’t leave SCHMIGADOON! lest you miss one of the most outrageous parodies of all time (and, yes, I’ve seen all the FORBIDDEN BROADWAYS).
And yet, did Cinco Paul purposely save the best tribute for last? “How We Change,” his final song, starts with notes that reference the opening chords of SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE. And once we get to the body of the song, you’ll hear a tribute to that score’s “Sunday.” It’s worth hearing every day of the week.
Peter Filichia can be heard most weeks of the year on www.broadwayradio.com. He’s a contributor to the new magazine Encore Monthly.