In Schmigadoon! Episode 2 “Lovers’ Spat,” Cecily Strong gets to do what most people thinks she does best: play drunk. Except instead of playing the unhinged Saturday Night Live version of Judge Jeanine Pirro (or Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation with at a Party), she’s Dr. Melissa Kimble, an ordinary woman trapped in a nightmare.
Only the day before, she and her long-time boyfriend Dr. Josh Skinner (Keegan-Michael Key), found themselves trapped in Schmigadoon, a mysterious town stuck in a musical. They can’t leave unless they find true love, which prompts a “lovers’ spat” and drives Josh into the orbit of the winsome Betsy (Dove Cameron). Jilted, exhausted, and broken-hearted, Melissa helps herself to the “Gentlemen’s Punch” and gets so drunk she rants about feminism, double-standards, and her own worth at a basket auction. It is a masterclass in drunk acting from one of the genre’s masters.
“I think it’s sort of like I walk that line every day, normally,” Cecily Strong told Decider with a smile. “But it was just so much fun…and I love playing drunk. You know, when you’re good at something, that’s what I’m best at, I think playing drunk. My brand.”
It’s a hilarious breakdown, but moreover one part of a masterful portrayal of how a normal person might react to Schmigadoon!‘s wild circumstances. The basket auction scene is a woman reeling from having her heart broken, whereas in Melissa’s scenes with Aaron Tveit’s Danny Bailey, we see a musical theatre nerd’s discomfit, and then glee, realizing that she is getting to live out her dreams.
On Saturday Night Live, Strong has shown off her range as a sketch performer, but in Schmigadoon! she gets to flex her muscles as a great comic actress. Every beat of her character is funny, emotional, and most of all, true. There were multiple cathartic moments in Strong’s performance where I had to stop and say, “Oh, wow, that is exactly how I would react in that same bonkers situation.” She has always been one of the most lauded sketch actors of her generation, but in Apple TV+‘s Schmigadoon!, Cecily Strong is everything.
“I don’t think that Melissa is ever not acting like a normal person,” Strong’s Schmigadoon! co-star Keegan-Michael Key told Decider. “She’s just acting like a normal person who’s experiencing one of her most favorite things. She loves musicals, she sees the world through the lens of musicals.”
“I love Cecily’s performance throughout the whole show as well,” Schmigadoon! director Barry Sonnenfeld said, calling out the moment when Melissa first realizes that she, too, can partake in the magic of Schmigadoon. “When she starts to sing “Corn Pudding,” and knows the lyrics, her beaming face…She’s just I think an undiscovered talent who will be discovered after people see Schmigadoon!”
In fact, the musical theatre part of Melissa’s character might be the point where Strong and her role overlap the most. “There was so much of me that was in Melissa and there’s so much that I think she’s sort of a heightened, most loving version of myself I could ever hope to be and that’s how Cinco writes,” Strong said, shouting out Schmigadoon!‘s co-creator and songwriter Cinco Paul.
For Paul, the admiration was mutual. “I will tell you, I knew Cecily from SNL obviously and thought she was brilliant; and I’ve heard her sing. But, you know, I have really been exposed to her as an actress since our first table read. She brought the realities of that character so hard, and it’s such an appealing and funny but grounded way. I was blown away,” Paul said. “I have to say, I was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, I did not know Cecily Strong had this.’”
None of us should have been surprised by Cecily Strong in Schmigadoon! After all, the actress has received back-to-back Emmy nominations for her supporting work on Saturday Night Live. But if that show just shows how elastic she is as a physical performer, Schmigadoon! shows off not just her heart, but her huge amount of talent and training.
“We’re both people that went to theater school, and then ended up going and working at the Second City Improv Theatre in Chicago. And then, I continued on MAD TV, she came into her career and went to SNL, so we have a very similar track that we’ve been on,” Key said. “Then that means that together, you get to go back to your dramatic training [in Schmigadoon!]”
Strong got to get back to her training, sure, but more importantly share part of her heart. “Ever since reading the first script, I just loved it. I love that it was so funny and then I loved that it was so grounded. And then I loved that we are just unabashedly sincere and wearing your heart on your sleeve and I’ve always loved comedy that’s also sweet,” Strong said. “And then I get to watch people sing and dance in front of me, and I’ll always do that.”
Schmigadoon! Episode 3 will premiere on Apple TV+ on Friday, July 23.
Where to stream Schmigadoon!