In a recent online panel, that cast of the Apple TV+ streaming musical series Schmigadoon! was asked, "What was your 'gateway' musical, the musical that made you fall in love with the genre?" And these stars answered with everything from some expected first musical answers (Oliver!) to a few surprise inspirations (David Hasselhoff).
Schmigadoon! stars Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key as a traveling couple who, when hiking in the woods, cross a foot bridge and find themselves trapped in a magical—musical—town that appears out of nowhere. It was created by Cinco Paul (who appeared on the panel) and Ken Daurio, with songs (that he refers to as "satirical homage") by Paul.
In addition to Strong and Key, the cast features loads of Broadway musical theatre and television talents including Tony winners Kristin Chenoweth, Alan Cumming, Aaron Tveit, and Jane Krakowski, West Side Story Oscar winner Ariana DeBose, The Light in the Piazza alum Dove Cameron, Avenue Q favorite Ann Harada, Chicago alum Jaime Camil, and Portlandia and Saturday Night Live star Fred Armisen.
Read on for a little insight into what really launched the careers of a few of these names—not their first roles, but their first musical inspirations.
Cinco Paul: I saw Oliver! very early on, which I fell in love with. Singin' in the Rain I saw early on, and when I saw Donald O'Connor do "Make 'Em Laugh" I thought it was the greatest thing I'd ever seen in my entire life. That's were it started. Also, my mom played these cast recordings constantly. So, it's Camelot, South Pacific, Guys and Dolls. I just fell in love at a very early age...I was an odd child.
Cecily Strong: My grandma used to introduce me to movie musicals and I think the first one I saw was Oliver! which, of course, I loved. But I think the one I was most in love with first was South Pacific. I thought the mute girl was so...I wanted to be her, because I thought she was pretty and I had a crush on Lt. Joe Cable. But I talk a lot and I didn't end up being that type of female character.
Jane Krakowski: Well, my parents' passion and interest was in community theatre, so I grew up in community theatre and was influenced by all the musicals my parents were doing as their hobby and their love. Oliver! is one of my first ones, and the first boy I ever kissed during spin the bottle played Oliver. And when they did Godspell, I fell in love with the guy who played Jesus, so that complicated things for me. In the Broadway theatre world, when I first started coming to see musicals, it was the original cast of Chicago. I remember watching Gwen Verdon and Chita Rivera up there, with the amazing Jerry Orbach as well, and just my mouth being on the floor and going "I want to do what they're doing." I just loved that they were strong, sexy females. They were quirky, but they were the leads. There was just so much in it that inspired me to want to be that kind of heroine, that kind of woman.
Dove Cameron: I was really lucky. My mom was really passionate about musical theatre when I was growing up. She would travel a lot for her work and she would always come back with whatever was the new hit show. So, I started out on Rent when I was, like, two years old, dressing up in my mom's clothes and singing things that a two-year-old shouldn't be singing. Then, of course, it was also Wicked. And I was also raised on the VHS Jesus Christ Superstar. Also when Netflix was just a DVD delivery service...what made a very big impression on me was the David Hasselhoff version of Jekyll and Hyde. That was when I fell in love with the character of Lucy, which has been one of my dream roles since I was eight years old. But my all-time favorite musical ever is The Light in the Piazza.
Jaime Camil: I come from a small town called Mexico City, so we did not have the big musicals playing there. They came much after. But I remember watching a show called El Diluvio que Viene...(The Coming Deluge). I watched this play, which is originally from Italy, and it's a beautiful, beautiful play about God calling a priest telling him that he's going to send another flood because no one is behaving. I saw that play in Mexico, and just like Jane, I was like "I want to be doing that."
Kristin Chenoweth: [singing] "The hills are alive with The Sound of Music..." I saw that and I knew that I wanted...because I had this kind of mature voice, not in my speaking, obviously, but singing. That's really what inspired me to want to sing like that. And then the first show that really stuck with me was A Chorus Line. I was cast inappropriately as Val...boobs and butt...I was only 16, I didn't have any boobs and butt..."tits and ass." We were in Oklahoma so we did boobs and butt. I also love the complexity of Gypsy between mothers and daughters.
Ann Harada: I guess the first movie I remember caring about was The Wizard of Oz, and I also remember that was the first time I ever heard a song and was like "I've got to learn how to sing that song," which was "Over the Rainbow." And keep in mind, kids, we did not have the internet, so I had to go to the library and look up the words. Of the Golden Age cannon, Oklahoma! is my favorite musical. I remember watching the movie and I remember seeing it on stage at our community theatre. I just think there's something so pure about that show. My goal is to play Aunt Eller someday.
Ariana DeBose: It's really bad that my answer's not West Side Story. I think I really fell in love with musicals with The Bandwagon. Cyd Charisse. Fred Astaire. That was really what got me. And then the first musical, actually...I think it was the second musical I ever saw on Broadway was Aida, and I loved the music. My god...Elton John...woof! But I really wanted to be Amneris.