facebook-pixel

Scott D. Pierce: Kristin Chenoweth loves Utah, and she loves ‘Schmigadoon!’

(Apple TV+) Kristin Chenoweth, center, stars as the villain in "Schmigadoon!"

“Schmigadoon!” is a bright, funny, upbeat original musical series that’s part parody, part tribute to a slew of movie and Broadway musicals. The six-part Apple TV+ series is nothing short of a delight.

The main storyline is pulled straight out of Lerner and Lowe’s 1947 Broadway musical “Brigadoon.” Melissa (Cecily Strong) and Josh (Keegan-Michael Key) star as a couple who get lost while hiking and end up in a town right out of an old MGM musical — complete with singing, dancing, impossibly upbeat citizens and a landscape that looks like it’s built out of plywood. Josh and Melissa quickly find they are trapped in Schmigadoon and can only go home if they find true love.

The one dark note in this multi-color escapade is, believe it or not, the ebullient, irrepressible Kristin Chenoweth, who plays the head of the local morality police, Mildred Layton. (The cast also includes Alan Cumming, Fred Armisen, Aaron Tveit, Ariana DeBose, Dove Cameron, Jaime Camil and Jane Krakowski.) Mildred tries to put the kibosh on everything and everyone who doesn’t live up to her standards.

“It was so fun for me!” Chenoweth told The Salt Lake Tribune. “I love playing the villain. I love playing the antagonist. I have definitely played the villain many times, but I haven’t actually visually looked like the villain.”

That’s not the case with Mildred, whose appearance is plenty severe. And she’s a funny villain — albeit one who almost never smiles, even though Chenoweth often found it hard to keep a straight face.

“I even wanted to do a couple lines with a little smirk,” she said. “And, thank goodness, we had [director Barry] Sonnenfeld, who knows me very, very well, at the helm.”

Sonnenfeld previously directed Chenoweth in the 2006 movie comedy “RV” and the 2007-2009 TV series “Pushing Daisies,” for which they both won Emmys.

Every time she started to smirk, Sonnenfeld “would say, ‘Nuh-uh! Watch it! When you smirk, it takes up the screen. Like, you light it up,’” Chenoweth said. “And I appreciated that because even if I [smirk a little], it’s too much.”

You can never have too much Chenoweth. I’ve interviewed her numerous times over the years and, of the thousands of interviews I’ve done, she’s one of my absolute favorites. Not to mention that she’s incredibly talented.

Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune Kristin Chenoweth performs with The Tabernacle Choir during the first of three sold-out Christmas concert performances Thursday, December 13, 2018 at the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Conference Center in Salt Lake City.

And she’s beginning to be a bit of a regular in Utah. The Tony-winning (“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” “Wicked”) actress/singer performed at the BYU homecoming spectacular in 2017, and she was featured in the Tabernacle Choir’s 2018 Christmas show. Her first live performance since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic was with the Utah Symphony at the Deer Valley Music Festival in July. And she’ll be back to perform at the Tuacahn Amphitheatre in November.

“I’m obsessed” with Utah, Chenoweth said. “I love it so much. I do happen to believe in God. For me, when you look at Utah, that is an example of God. I understand why people live there.

“So much kindness has been shown to me there. There are certain places as you go along in this life that touch you and maybe you touch. And one of them seems to be, Salt Lake especially, but Utah for me.”

She’s anxious for her fans to get a look at “Schmigadoon!”

(Apple TV+) Kristin Chenoweth stars as the villain in "Schmigadoon!"

“I just love it so much,” Chenoweth said — in part because it was “the biggest challenge of my career” to perform the 18-page song “Tribulation,” which was filmed as one continuous take. Seemingly inspired by “Ya Got Trouble” from “The Music Man,” Chenoweth takes center stage amid dozens of supporting cast members as the camera follows her through the four-minute number

“Yes, I’ve done Broadway. And, yes, we do things without cuts — but we usually have rehearsals,” she said with a laugh.

“Schmigadoon!” was filmed “at the height of the pandemic, before we had vaccines,” so there were no full rehearsals. “And if one person messed up, we had to start over,” Chenoweth said. “We did it a total of three times, and the first take is what they used in that show.”

“Tribulation” is the highlight of Episode 5 of “Schmigadoon!” — an episode which is itself, arguably, the highlight of the six-episode season. And it’s definitely worth the price of admission: a month of Apple TV+.

Episodes 1-5 of “Schmigadoon!” are streaming on Apple TV+. The sixth and final episode starts streaming Friday, Aug. 13.

Return to Story