I personally believe every show EVER would benefit from adding Jane Krakowski, and Schmigadoon! Season 1 Episode 5 really proves my point.
I’ve been loving it all from the moment Melissa and Josh stepped foot over the bridge, and my mind is constantly blown by the talent they gathered into this cast.
But when Doc Lopez spun Melissa directly into the bosom of the sparkling Countess Gabriele Von Blerkom, who seemed to appear out of thin air, I keeled over, laughing.
And when her number turned out to be based on Kiss Me, Kate’s “Always True To You In My Fashion,” one of my favorite all-time musical theatre songs, I pretty much jumped up and cried, “Hooray!”
I love The Countess so much because she actually contests her character’s destiny.
In contrast to Danny Bailey, who seems determined to play out his Carousel plotline to its tragic end, The Countess is D-O-N-E with always stepping aside for the Marias who keep captivating her men.
Whether it’s Swedes who are into servant porn or darning socks that lead to sexy talks, I completely applaud her attempt to take control of the narrative.
Meanwhile, Melissa spends a lot of time making observations.
From how different Doc Lopez is when he’s in love, to The Countess’s arrival and her role in the plot, to the needless nature of dream ballets, she takes over as the outsider perspective from Josh, who is now fully immersed in his love story.
Oh no, is this a dream ballet? No, no, we’re not having a dream ballet. Okay? They’re annoying and stupid. They slow everything down. Nobody likes a dream ballet. Nobody!
Even the physics of an automobile’s movement when the driver belts out a show tune from the backseat gets objective commentary.
Still, she obviously believes musicals to be safe spaces as she’s not in any hurry to grab the wheel.
Backing up to the opening flashback of the real world, I have to give props to the scripting for providing us with a reference point on how Josh and Melissa look when they reconcile.
These flashbacks ground us in the real relationship between our protagonists. This is a very important element to include, considering how bonkers everyone and everything in Schmigadoon is.
And the flashbacks also continue to remind us of the fundamental differences between Melissa and Josh.
I didn’t become a surgeon for fellowships. I did it because I wanted to help people without having to talk to them.
In this case, when Josh loses out on the fellowship competition, Melissa wants to strategize on how he can do better next time, whereas Josh would prefer to chalk it up to sour grapes and file it away in his archives.
So we’re not cheating. We’re just exploiting a loophole. Gee, thanks!
This is echoed in his conversation with Carson about working hard, the lesson Emma Tate spent a good part of Schmigadoon! Season 1 Episode 4 teaching him.
A lot of truths come to light in a short half-hour.
Doc Lopez having a fiancée.
Emma being Carson’s mother.
Mildred declaring her mayoral intentions.
This is exactly how a good musical ramps up the second act for its finale.
And now to the crown jewel: Mildred Layton’s campaign launch.
A few facts you should know about the “Tribulation and Strife” production number.
First, it was eighteen pages of script. Typically, the guideline for scriptwriters is for one page to equal one minute. This number was only(!) four minutes long. That gives you some idea of the amount of direction and description included.
Second, it was four minutes long, and it was a continuous shot. There were no cuts. Kristin Chenoweth basically brought out her massive musical theatre bazooka of skills and masterfully spearheaded the ensemble through a fully-staged musical number.
And can we please give it up for the camera operator who managed to keep up with her without tripping over a dancer or three?
Lastly, “Tribulation and Strife” is a scathing parody of “Ya Got Trouble” from The Music Man, which was produced as a film in 2003 with Chenoweth portraying the librarian love interest, Marian Paroo.
“Ya Got Trouble” is Harold Hill’s big scam number and, in the same way, Mildred Pierce uses “Tribulation and Strife” to slippery-slope the townsfolk into supporting her candidacy for mayor.
I love this town. Y’all know my great-great-grand-daddy founded Schmigadoon when he came upon this beautiful tract of land and said, ‘They’ll never find us here.’
To be fair, she doesn’t attempt to hide her platform principles. Like her Mothers Against the Future coven, she is clear about her goals for the town.
Now, I’ve got nothing against outsiders, provided they’re the right kind of people. The kind of folk who look and talk and act like us. Like peas in a pod and birds of a feather.
To be fair, her ability to stir the souls of Schmigadonions to a fever pitch with nothing but a pile of peanut shells littering the town square — even if they are “lying there like passed-out drunks in the gutter” — is so impressive.
And Christopher Gattelli’s choreography provides the perfect backdrop to Chenoweth’s shining performance.
From the crowd’s moments of “TESTIFY!” hand-clapping to her Christ-like pose as she’s lifted above the crowd, flying off the church steps to lead the crowd with her broom baton, it infuses the scene with an energy worthy of the most fanatical cults.
In the best possible way, of course.
I tried to alert the mayor but his mind was elsewhere. In his pants! His poor wife is so ashamed, she locked herself inside her house. And this time, on purpose.
And while Mayor Menlove makes only the most cursory appearance, and Florence isn’t in sight at all, Mildred still manages to make it clear that she’s coming for them and their civic status.
Josh and Melissa’s love story starts to dovetail here with the reappearance of the heart stones they were given on Schmigadoon! Season 1 Episode 1, before they ever crossed the bridge the first time.
That Melissa only finds hers after being dumped in the middle of nowhere and Josh finds his after Danny Bailey knocks him to the ground is pretty symbolic.
Also, the fact that they find their own hearts is key. The message is pretty clear that they need to know themselves before they can attempt to truly love and know someone else.
With only one installment left, how will our heroes find their way back to each other?
In your opinion, who has been the most impressive performer? Hit our comments with your adulations!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.