If ‘Schmigadoon’ is greenlit for a third season, ’80s and ’90s musicals would take center stage. So, here are the hit shows from that period more than worthy of parody.
Schmigadoon! is to Broadway enthusiasts what The Lion King is to Disney adults. The show, featuring some of the Great White Way’s living legends — Kristen Chenoweth, Alan Cumming, Tituss Burgess, Aaron Tveit, and more — creates a simple narrative around a couple searching for the meaning of life, love, and happiness. Yet, various performers take center stage to serenade the primary protagonists (and viewers at home) with parodies of iconic musical numbers. The lyrics may be different, but the delivery pays homage while poking fun at the tunes theatergoers have come to know and love.
The premiere season featured musicals from the 1940s and 1950s, including Oklahoma!, Carousel, Annie Get Your Gun, The Pajama Game, The Music Man, etc. The season parodied hits like “Ya Got Trouble,” “There’s Nothing Like a Dame,” “Climb Every Mountain,” and many more.
Season two, appropriately titled Schmicago, entered the ‘60s and ‘70s — right when Broadway got a little more seedy and somber thanks to the likes of Bob Fosse, Stephen Sondheim, and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Chicago, Jesus Christ Superstar, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and Cabaret all make their way into the season featuring showstopping takes on “Maybe This Time,” “Mein Herr,” “Razzle Dazzle,” “Getting Married Today,” and “A Little Priest.”
Though the show has yet to be renewed for a season 3, its popularity and critical acclaim will hopefully lead Apple TV+ execs to greenlight another trip down memory lane. If that becomes the case, the show would feature ‘80s and ‘90s musicals, and we know exactly which ones deserve center stage. Let’s call season 3, for now, Les Schmisérables.
‘Les Misérables’ | Broadway Premiere: 1987
Les Miserables premiered on Broadway in 1987 and was nominated for 12 Tony awards. It took home eight, including Best Musical and Best Original Score. The show’s “I Dreamed a Dream” has been sung by the likes of Barbra Streisand, Patti LuPone, Lea Salonga, and Aretha Franklin. Dove Cameron would be perfect for a parody of this tune, following her incredible take on “Mein Herr” in Schmicago.
The show would also have to work in “Master of the House,” and place Alan Cumming and Kirsten Chenoweth back together for this comical number featuring a dysfunctional, evil-doing married couple. Their chemistry as a nutty, unstable pair (parodying Mrs. Lovett and Sweeney Todd) in Schmicago was just too good for one season alone.
‘Little Shop of Horrors’ | Off-Broadway Premiere: 1982
“Instantly, Josh Skinner is standing beside me” belts Melissa (Cecily Strong) to her husband, Josh (Keegan-Michael Key), as she blows the roof off whatever skid row dive they wind up in for this number. It would be amazing to see a human-devouring plant work its way into the season, but would that be asking for too much? It would also be quite entertaining to witness a version of “Somewhere That’s Green” and “Dentist.” Considering Jaime Camil played a not-so-caretaking doctor in the premiere season, requesting he takes on a masochistic dentist doesn’t seem like a big ask.
‘Cats’ | Broadway Premiere: 1982
You cannot have a season parodying musicals from the 1980s and leave out “Memory” from Cats. Given that this is one of the most vocally demanding musical numbers of all time, a Broadway master will need to take a swing at it.
It’s likely that Kirsten Chenoweth would be tasked with this one. However, they could always snag another stage legend for season 3. Who knows — could the original Grizabella, Betty Buckley, make her way into the Apple TV+ original? We would faint.
‘The Phantom of the Opera’ | Broadway Premiere: 1988
Arguably Andrew Lloyd Webber’s magnum opus, The Phantom of the Opera includes hits like “Angel of Music,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Think of Me,” and “All I Ask of You,” and it’s one of the most renowned musicals to date, yet it asks its lead vocalists to do the impossible eight times per week.
These songs are not easy on a singer’s instrument, but, at the least, we need a parody of “The Phantom of the Opera.” Given that it’s a duet, two performers from the Schmigadoon universe must step up to the bat. Tveit and who else? Burgess? Chenoweth? Someone new?
‘Into the Woods’ | Broadway Premiere: 1987
Into the Woods is one of Sondheim’s most well-known musicals, as it even received a 2014 film adaptation with a star-studded cast, including Meryl Streep as The Witch and Johnny Depp as The Wolf.
Into the Woods includes several hit numbers ripe for parody: “The Witch’s Rap,” “Hello, Little Girl,” “Agony,” “Last Midnight,” “No One Is Alone,” and many more. Seeing Aaron Tveit play a version of The Wolf would be scrumptious, as he’s got that flirtatious air and alluring smirk needed for such a character. As for who should parody “The Witch’s Rap,” who else but Jane Krokowski — who proved her ability to rattle off tongue-twisting lyrics with a brief homage to Sondheim’s “Getting Married Today” in Schmicago?
‘Dreamgirls’ | Broadway Premiere: 1981
Dreamgirls is yet another hit musical with songs so popular they have worked their way into mainstream culture. From “I Am Telling You I’m Not Going ” and “Listen” to “Dreamgirls,” the musical is chock-full of jaw-dropping, standing-ovation-worthy hits.
Who would be best to belt parodies of these glass-shattering numbers? Burgess sang “I Am Telling You” for Broadway Backwards in 2013, making him an obvious choice. However, it may be a little bit too predictable for theater enthusiasts watching at home. If he’s not chosen, the showrunners may need to bring some new powerhouse vocalist in to take the reins.
‘Rent’ | Broadway Premiere: 1994
Choosing which songs to parody in Rent is an impossible feat. The musical boasts the perfect balance of heartwrenching ballads and upbeat, fun-loving numbers. Yet, it goes without saying that we need a full-cast rendition of “La Vie Boheme” in Les Schmisérables.
“I Should Tell You,” “Tango: Maureen,” Take Me or Leave Me,” “Seasons of “Love,” And “One Song Glory” may also be the most desirable. Aaron Tveit sang “Take Me or Leave Me” with Gavin Creel in 2016, but similar to Burgess singing Dreamgirls, this choice seems a bit too on the nose. How about Alan Cumming and Jaime Camil play lovers in season 3, and they take on the sexy, argumentative number? And yes, Cumming would, of course, sing the Maureen-esque part.
‘The Lion King’ | Broadway Premiere: 1997
Is it too much to ask for Melissa to get pregnant and give birth in season three, so we receive a version of Josh holding the baby in the air as he begins a parody of “The Circle of Life?” Too cheesy? Too trite? Not funny anymore? Who cares.
The Lion King remains one of Broadway’s most successful musicals, so Les Schmisérables would have to parody a number or two from this Disney hit. Can we somehow get Aaron Tveit or Ariana DeBose to sing a version of Scar’s “Be Prepared?”
*Note: Beauty and the Beast premiered on Broadway in 1993, but we don’t need Les Schmisérables to become a Disney medley, so one is enough from Walt.
‘Smokey Joe’s Cafe’ | Broadway Premiere: 1995
This one may be a hard sell because it’s a jukebox musical featuring the songs of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who wrote hits like “Jailhouse Rock” and “Loving You” for Elvis Presley. They also wrote songs for The Coasters and collaborated with Ben E. King.
Smokey Joe’s includes renditions of hits like “Hound Dog,” “Kansas City,” “Poison Ivy,” “Fools Fall in Love,” “Pearl’s a Singer,” and many more. Unfortunately, jukebox musicals seem like a stretch for Les Schmisérables, given that they often contain songs existing outside the theatrical landscape and outside the time period at play. Alas, we can dream.
More ‘80s and ‘90s musicals that deserve a parody or two:
- Merrily We Roll Along | Broadway Premiere: 1981
- The Mystery of Edwin Drood | Broadway Premiere: 1981
- Chess | West End Premiere: 1986; Broadway Premiere: 1988
- Miss Saigon | Broadway Premiere: 1989
- Sunset Boulevard | Broadway Premiere: 1995
- Jekyll & Hyde | Broadway Premiere: 1997