A Comprehensive Guide to All the Musical Theatre References in SCHMIGADOON!

Learn about all the shows, songs and moments referenced in SCHMIGADOON!

By: Aug. 06, 2021

A Comprehensive Guide to All the Musical Theatre References in SCHMIGADOON!

To the delight of musical theatre lovers everywhere, Schmigadoon! is here and here to stay.

A parody of iconic Golden Age musicals, Schmigadoon! stars Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key as a couple on a backpacking trip designed to reinvigorate their relationship who discover a magical town living in a 1940s musical. They then learn that they can't leave until they find "true love." The six-episode season also stars Alan Cumming, Kristin Chenoweth, Aaron Tveit, Dove Cameron, Ariana DeBose, Fred Armisen, Jaime Camil, Jane Krakowski and Ann Harada. Martin Short guest stars.

The series is a stellar musical comedy in its own right, but you may have noticed that there are little references to Golden Age musicals all over the place - from Brigadoon, to The Music Man, to Carousel, and beyond.

BroadwayWorld wants to help you catch all these jokes. We've put together a guide to the first two episodes of Schmigadoon! to answer all your questions about why some moments might seem a little bit familiar.

We'll update this article weekly, as we see more of the show and process more of the homages and jokes. WARNING: Spoilers ahead!

Let's talk about those opening credits.

There's nothing so musical theatre as a colorful, lush opening credits sequence. You'll find one in most any Golden Age musical you decide to watch - and so, naturally, you'll find one on Schmigadoon. We never, ever hit "skip intro" in this one.

Here's an example of the kind of thing they're referencing:

Why are the townspeople's names so familiar?

Most every never-shown townsperson in Schmigadoon's name comes from a famous musical theatre character.

In the basket auction scene in episode two, Mayor Manlove (Alan Cumming) rattles off some names of residents, including Marcellus (The Music Man), Barnaby (Hello, Dolly!), Enoch (Carousel), and Curly (Oklahoma!).

On top of that, all of Betsy (Dove Cameron)'s six sisters seem to have musical theatre names - Laurie (Oklahoma), Carrie (Carousel), Nellie (South Pacific), Fiona (Brigadoon), Cindy (a short-lived 1964 musical), and Tootie (Meet Me in St. Louis).

Betsy's six sisters, each of whom wears a different color, could also be a reference to the 1954 musical film Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

In episode four, we're introduced to some of the students in Emma's class - including Zaneeta and Tommy, both made famous as the mayor's daughter and the town bad boy in The Music Man.

Did you do a double take when you saw the name of that one store?

Most of the stores in Schmigadoon are just labeled with their purpose - but there's one that stood out to us.

"Hammerstein and Sons" references the work of Oscar Hammerstein, who, along with Richard Rodgers, wrote many of the beloved Golden Age musicals that Schmigadoon references directly.

It's not just the title - there's SO much Brigadoon here.

Brigadoon is a 1947 Lerner & Loewe musical about two lovers who wander into a Scottish town that only exists once every 100 years. Sound familiar?

A couple that gets lost hiking in the woods and ends up in a town they can't leave is very Brigadoon to begin with, but the references don't stop there.

When you leave Brigadoon in the musical, you need to fall in love to have a chance of finding it again; this is subverted in Schmigadoon, where you need to fall in love in order to leave.

Betsy's character reminds us a lot of Meg from Brigadoon - the lonely girl who seduces the handsome outsider.

In Schmigadoon, we meet a friendly leprechaun played by the legendary comic actor Martin Short. There are no leprechauns in Brigadoon (though he does resemble Og from Finian's Rainbow), but Short's character stands in for Mr. Lundie, who teaches the outsiders who come to Brigadoon what they can expect from his magical little town.

Wait... Aren't you also getting serious The Music Man vibes?

Kristin Chenoweth plays the reverend's wife - an incredible facsimile of Mrs. Eulalie Mackechnie Shinn from The Music Man. She and her friends (maybe witches, definitely a spoof of The Music Man's Pick-a-Little ladies) protest modernity in Schmigadoon in much the same way they do in The Music Man.

And, of course, Ariana DeBose's schoolmarm character is just like Marian the Librarian. She even directly references the controversial authors Marian reads in The Music Man - Chaucer, Rabelais, and Balzac. In episode three, we learn even more about her. She has "no use for marriage," just like Marian at the beginning of Music Man.

The references don't stop there. Carson, the little boy with a lisp, is eerily reminiscent of The Music Man's Winthrop; and there's even a nod to the Wells Fargo Wagon in the Schmigadoon! opening number. In The Music Man, the little truck warrants its own song, but we're happier this way.

By the way, "Find That Bridge" and all the love scenes centered on the bridge remind us of Harold Hill and Marian's romantic meeting spot in The Music Man.

Our Music Man story continued pretty explicitly in episode four, as Josh's relationship with Emma the schoolmarm progressed.

Melissa and Josh speak openly about The Music Man; Melissa describes Harold Hill as "a morally adrift narcissist who needs to change" - as a fun Easter egg, she also applies that description to the titular character in The King and I.

In Music Man terms, Melissa says Josh might need to buy Emma's little brother a trumpet in order to win her heart. Hill, of course, helps Winthrop learn to play the trumpet in Music Man.

When Josh asks why, Melissa quips, "Why? Shipoopi." Any discerning Music Man fan will recognize that as the name of the silly song about the "girl who waits 'til the third time around, head in the clouds, feet on the ground."

Josh ends up giving Carson a kazoo in place of a trumpet, but it still does the trick.

Episode five plays host to "Tribulation," a five-minute patter song sung by Kristin Chenoweth's Mildred Layton. It's a cut-and-paste parody of "Trouble" from The Music Man, and it's perfect.

She calls attention to the same exact "bad influences" Harold Hill does in Music Man - billiard parlors, "ragtime blaring on the victrola" - though Mildred's explicitly racist in voicing her fears (calling for the end to "miscegenation," or a really racist old way of saying mixed-race couples) while Hill is more discrete about it.

The "Strife!" chant in the middle of the song is also extremely "Trouble!"

In the season finale, when Mayor Menlove is reelected, a parade immediately runs through the town. They're conspicuously dressed just like Harold Hill's band is dressed in "76 Trombones."

Is Aaron Tveit basically just playing Billy Bigelow from Carousel?

Pretty much.

And we love it.

It's the costume; it's the fact that Tveit's character Danny Bailey works at a Tunnel of Love where Billy Bigelow works at the titular Carousel; it's the mannerisms.

It's the fact that Tveit's spotlight song, "You Can't Tame Me," makes direct references to "If I Loved You" ("But somehow I can see / Just exactly how I'd be") and "Soliloquy" (he starts singing about his future children).

It's also just the hokey, old-timey language Danny Bailey uses to talk to Melissa (Cecily Strong). We are incredibly here for it.

And, on the subject of Carousel, "Corn Puddin'" reminds us of "This Was a Real Nice Clambake."

In episode three, Tveit reprises "You Can't Tame Me," and it falls right back into "Soliloquy" territory - it's a mostly-absurd what-if scenario about their future children, despite Melissa's insistence that she has an IUD and they can't possibly have already conceived.

There's a lot of Oklahoma! in here, too.

"You Can't Tame Me" doesn't just reference Carousel - musically, it's so much like Oklahoma!'s "I Cain't Say No," but subverted on the lines of gender.

Even just the title of the show - with that pesky exclamation mark after Schmigadoon! - reminds us of the branding for Oklahoma!

The citizens of Schmigadoon spell out the name of their hometown in the opening number. As we all know, that's something the citizens of the new state of Oklahoma do in their own titular song.

There's also a picnic basket auction in Oklahoma!, just like there's one in Schmigadoon.

In episode five, Melissa thwarts a "dream ballet," because "no one likes them" and she doesn't have time for a non-verbal expression of her feelings. The Oklahoma dream ballet, running just under 15 minutes, is famously divisive among audience members for this reason.

There's enough Sound of Music now to warrant its own section.

Episode three has Melissa directly referencing The Sound of Music movie as she and Josh try to figure out Betsy's nebulous age: ""Haven't you seen The Sound of Music? Liesl is 16 going on 29." In reality, Charmain Carr, who played Liesl in the film, was 23 while playing the teenager.

In episode four, the realities start to converge. Melissa's relationship with Doc Lopez is reminiscent of Maria's relationship with Captain von Trapp - from overwhelming strictness to "Sudden" love.

Speaking of "Suddenly," placing it in a gazebo alone makes us think of Sound of Music. It's very much "Something Good," the underrated, insanely romantic song from the latter half of the beloved movie musical.

It turns into a beautiful duet, featuring Melissa and Doc Lopez alongside Josh and Emma, and they even do that beautiful Austrian dance they perform in Sound of Music.

There's also a part of "Suddenly" where Ariana DeBose puts her hands on her face in a way we can only describe as Julie Andrews-ish.

We would be remiss if we didn't talk about the brilliant, anatomically correct song about sex organs that reminds us distinctly of "Do-Re-Mi."

In episode five, we're introduced to The Countess, played by Jane Krakowski. Her entire schtick builds on the ridiculous theatrical legacy of The Baroness Elsa Schraeder from The Sound of Music - she is a beautiful, city-dwelling lady who speaks her mind and wants to marry her fiancé, the big guy in town (in this case, Doc Lopez; in Sound of Music terms, that's Captain Von Trapp).

Melissa references the Baroness directly while talking to "Blerky," and says she thinks she knows how their stories will shape out based on what she knows about The Sound of Music; Blerky will graciously step aside in defeat once she realizes how in love Melissa and Doc Lopez really are.

In a shocking twist of events, though, Blerky pulls a GUN on Melissa and says she won't give up on Doc Lopez. She is tired of things like this happening to her, and tired of being portrayed as the villain when she's not the homewrecker in this situation (it's a good point, I guess - the Baroness' feelings are pretty much discarded in The Sound of Music in favor of the plot).

At the end of their conversation, Melissa says she knows it wasn't explicitly stated, but she thinks Blerky is a Nazi; Blerky affirms this suspicion, bluntly and honestly. We REALLY don't know for sure whether or not the Baroness Elsa Schraeder was a Nazi - honestly, I've never really thought about it - but it's certainly possible, and it's funny to get confirmation from a character just like her rather than from Elsa herself.

Finally, in the season finale, Melissa tells Doc Lopes she knew he'd choose her over Blerky - presumably because that's how it happens in The Sound of Music.

What other Golden Age musicals are referenced so far in Schmigadoon?

The part of "Lover's Spat" where the ensemble stops singing so dialogue between Melissa and Josh (Keegan-Michael Key) can occur reminds us a lot of "Been a Long Day" from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

The beautiful song Mayor Manlove sings in the forest ("Somewhere Love is Waiting For You") definitely references songs like "More I Cannot Wish You" from Guys and Dolls and "Climb Every Mountain" from The Sound of Music.

When Josh is nervous about being murdered by Betsy's father, Melissa fails to reassure him with: "Nobody gets killed in a musical - except Oklahoma, and Carousel, and South Pacific. Oh, hello! West Side Story!" RIP to Jud Fry, Billy Bigelow, Cable, Riff, Bernardo, and Tony... But hopefully not Josh.

Also, "Find That Bridge" from episode three sounds a lot like "Brotherhood of Man" from How to Succeed... and "Run Freedom Run" from Urinetown.

In episode four, we get to know Emma the schoolmarm a lot better. It's not just The Music Man that's coloring that performance - "With All of Your Heart" also gives us "Whistle a Happy Tune" from The King and I vibes, AND "Spoonful of Sugar" from Mary Poppins vibes. This gal can do it all. (Also, the kids spelling? Very Matilda).

In episode five, Jane Krakowski's Countess sings a jazzy little number called "I Always, Always, Never Get My Man," which reminds us of similar numbers in Kiss Me Kate.
Also, there's something about handing Kristin Chenoweth a broom that's just going to evoke Wicked.
In the season finale, Doc Lopez tries for one final time to woo Melissa - he says, "I want you to mold me and make me the man you want me to be." This evoked "How Lovely To Be a Woman" from Bye Bye Birdie for me, because "you've made him the man you want him to be" is also a lyric in that song!
Did y'all catch Ariana DeBose referring to New York City as "the greatest city in the world?" In any other context, I'd say that's a reach for a Hamilton reference - but DeBose was an original Broadway cast member in Hamilton, so it's probably not so much of a stretch.
Finally, I got major "Light" from Next to Normal vibes from "This Is How We Change" - it makes sense that the final song we hear in Schmigadoon! represents not only a shift in the characters, but a shift towards the present in musical theatre trends.

Thank you so much for coming back to read this every week! Hopefully, we'll be back with another season of Schmigadoon! down the road.


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Listen: Hear the SCHMIGADOON! Season 2 Soundtrack

The album’s 26 vocal tracks are performed throughout the series’ 6 episodes by returning stars Cecily Strong, Keegan-Michael Key, Ariana DeBose, Martin Short, Dove Cameron, Jaime Camil, Kristin Chenoweth, Alan Cumming, Ann Harada, Jane Krakowski, and Aaron Tveit as well as season two newcomers Tituss Burgess and Patrick Page.



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