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In The New Show 'SCHMIGADOON!,' A Couple Goes On A Hike, And Runs Into A Musical

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Melissa and Josh feel it's a little dull in their relationship after three years, go on a trail hike that's supposed to fan the spark of love. They take some kind of turn. Is it the wrong one or the right one? - and wind up in some magical small town that seems straight out of a musical, a town that is a musical.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SCHMIGADOON!")

KEEGAN-MICHAEL KEY: (As Josh) Why is music coming from everywhere?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character, singing) Welcome to our little town.

AMITAI MARMORSTEIN: (As Pete, singing) Where friends are all you meet.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character, singing) And you will never see a frown.

MARMORSTEIN: (As Pete) Hey, everyone.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS #1: (As characters) Hey there, Pete.

SIMON: "Schmigadoon!" is on Apple TV, co-created by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul, who's also written all the songs. It stars Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key as the stranded couple and a company of comic and musical legends including Fred Armisen, Jaime Camil, Jane Krakowski, Martin Short, Alan Cumming, Kristen - I could go on. Keegan-Michael Key and Cinco Paul join us.

Gentlemen, thanks so much for being with us.

KEY: Thank you for having us, Scott.

CINCO PAUL: Yeah, it's great to be here.

SIMON: What's the spark of this idea?

PAUL: Well, it's kind of crazy. It was about 25 years ago. I was watching the movie "American Werewolf In London." And, you know, it starts...

SIMON: You have no idea how many answers I get that begin exactly that way.

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON: But go ahead, yeah.

PAUL: And it's one of my favorite movies. The two guys are backpacking through the countryside. And as I was watching it, I thought, oh, the opening to this is just like the opening of "Brigadoon." And I thought, wait; what if two modern guys stumbled on a musical instead of a werewolf? And that's really what sparked it all. But I didn't know what to do with it, so I filed it away for years and years until I was kind of done with animation, ready to try live-action TV. The landscape had changed. It looked really interesting and took a meeting, and they mentioned they were interested in doing a musical at Broadway Video. And I thought, huh, I wonder if maybe its time has come. The time for "Schmigadoon!" has finally come.

SIMON: And Keegan-Michael Key, what brought your heart into this?

KEY: I've always been an avid admirer of musicals. I enjoy them, and I enjoy what they do to me emotionally. When - I have this rule or maxim that I have for myself, which is if I read a script and it - upon first reading, it affects me emotionally, then I'm at the very least interested. This was no exception in that regard. Cinco's words and the music - and it's funny because I had not heard any of the music. I was only reading the lyrics, and the lyrics alone were entertaining me. So I was like, whatever this is, I'm in.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SCHMIGADOON!")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS #2: (As characters, singing) You must always try your best with all of your heart, H-E-A-R-T, heart.

SIMON: So you mentioned "Brigadoon," of course. But am I wrong to see flashes of "Oklahoma!" and "Carousel," for that matter?

PAUL: Oh, no. There's...

KEY: (Laughter).

PAUL: There are flashes of "Oklahoma!," "Carousel," "The Music Man," "Sound Of Music." You know, there's even some "Guys And Dolls," "Seven Brides For Seven Brothers." There's everything. I'll name-drop every single golden age musical if you want me to.

KEY: (Laughter).

PAUL: It's all there.

SIMON: Maybe I should explain, of course. The premise earlier is that the couple that stumble into Schmigadoon are there, they learn, until they find true love - doesn't necessarily mean with each other, does it?

KEY: Yeah, it's the best part. I think that was - it's the best plot twist. It's really great, Cinco.

PAUL: Aw, shucks (laughter).

KEY: Every time I see you, I just - all I can just say it's so good because it's great that, of course, they assume they know what love is. Both Melissa and Josh are coming at this from different - they're looking at the prism from different angles. And so it is - the piece to me is an exploration of what love is.

PAUL: Yeah, it was important to me that the show was about a couple who are already a couple but are trying to figure it out and work things through because that's actually the toughest part of love. And that's kind of what I feel is real love is not, you know, the couple of weeks when everything's on fire, but it's three or four years later. And how do you still maintain it? And ultimately, you know, one of the things we said in the writers room was it's not about who you should be with, but it's about who you should be.

KEY: This show - it's interesting. This show picks up where most romantic comedies end.

SIMON: Is there a song you can't get out of your head?

KEY: Cinco, you know what gets me...

PAUL: What?

KEY: ...Is "Corn Puddin'."

PAUL: (Laughter).

KEY: It's the...

SIMON: Oh, one of my favorites, "Corn Puddin'," yes.

KEY: "Corn Puddin'" gets me every time because of the - I think it's the way that the gospel of it - it's the syncopation in it. When you say, he wants it more than me, (vocalizing).

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SCHMIGADOON!")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS #3: (As characters, singing) My guy loves corn puddin'. I've got the recipe. So if he wants my puddin', he'll have to marry me. Oh, he'll have to marry me.

KEY: That just doesn't leave me. And I probably - Scott, I probably sing it two or three times a day.

SIMON: Oh, my God.

KEY: I'm like - you just lit up, Scott. I - you were like, "Corn Puddin'" (laughter).

SIMON: I love that song.

KEY: Yeah.

SIMON: At one point, I was going to ask, you know, its own question about it because I think it's kind of brilliant.

KEY: Yeah.

SIMON: What else would they have for breakfast?

KEY: Right, exactly.

(LAUGHTER)

PAUL: It's so funny. That was the first song I wrote for the show.

KEY: Was it really?

PAUL: The very first one, yeah. And some of the other early songs I completely tossed out because I felt like I wasn't being rigorous enough, you know? But that one just - I sort of hit something there. And the irony is, you know, in a regular musical, it would stop the story cold.

KEY: (Laughter).

PAUL: But in ours, it actually moves it forward because it gets him to say, get us out of here.

KEY: Right (laughter). We got to get out of here, exactly. Oh, that's great.

SIMON: Let me ask you both. Do - does working with these songs and this material that is clearly inspired by previous works - does that make you appreciate something about the original works all over again, Mr. Key?

KEY: I think that I would say emphatically, yes. And I think it's - there's a certain amount of craft that's required to come up with the evergreen quality of these songs because these songs are really appealing to the human condition and to the way that we're existing - that people have been existing for decades and decades or shall I even say centuries and centuries. And I think that to be able to have that sensibility in the music and also have the music be catchy, I mean, you're going to be caught into the trappings of where you are in history. But the fact that the songs have this wonderful universal quality about them is - it takes a lot of work. It takes a lot of work, and I really admire that.

SIMON: Well, gentlemen, I wish you much, much corn pudding in your future.

(LAUGHTER)

KEY: Thank you, Scott - you as well.

PAUL: Thanks so much, yes.

KEY: May your bowl overflow with corn pudding (laughter).

PAUL: (Laughter) May your bowl overflow.

SIMON: Oh, my. Sorry, I...

PAUL: Let's all raise a spoon.

KEY: Right (laughter).

SIMON: Cinco Paul and Keegan-Michael Key, part of the creators of "Schmigadoon!," now on Apple TV. Thank you so much for being with us.

KEY: Thank you, Scott.

PAUL: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SCHMIGADOON!")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS #3: (As characters, singing) So if he wants my puddin', he'll have to marry me. Oh, he'll... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.