“Schmigadoon” musical references in the Season 2 set
Production designer Jamie Walker McCall turned to “Cabaret,” “Chicago” and Sondheim for inspiration — but also a beloved Disney classic.
If “Schmigadoon!” Season 1 Necessary for the candy-colored feel of an MGM musical, Season 2 dances the same — but backwards, in high heels and probably a run or two in stockings. The second season of the Apple TV+ series set itself an equally ambitious production task, turning to the messier, sharp-elbowed, darkly funny musicals of the ’70s.
The cast had to contend with the compositional whiplash of Kander, Ebb and Sondheim (not to mention Aaron Tveit’s hippie commune). However, production designer Jamie Walker McCall was tasked with creating a musical version of Chicago—canonically a Schmicago—that would be as dirty and gritty-looking as an orphanage run by Kristin Chenoweth that also reflected the show’s fun and theatricality. While creating the show’s Schmicago, McCall looked beyond the “Cabaret,” “Chicago” and “Sweeney Todd” references embedded in the script to something more surprising: “Mary Poppins.”
“In ‘Mary Poppins,’ there’s a very misty scene in the trees where (Mr. Banks) walks away. For me, that was the moment I remembered from my childhood when I read (the script). And that’s where the inspiration for the black trees in the main square came from,” McCall told IndieWire. The foggy London moments within “Mary Poppins” also provided McCall with a good guide to the color and feel the “Schmigadoon” sets should evoke. Whether it’s the wood-paneled and gilded splendor of the courtroom, where Bobbie (Jane Krakowski) shares the jury, so to speak, or Kratt’s (Patrick Page) office complete with a model ship, there’s more than a little classy sophistication to it. Schmicago’s World; and it has the same sense that the world is dark and imposing without being gloomy or grim.
Screenshot/Disney+ and Apple TV+
McCall paid homage to the seductive, seedy worlds of “Chicago” and “Cabaret,” often with the way the scripts and scores use period reference points as the basis for something far more ridiculous. But the sets were mostly influenced by Christopher Gattelli’s choreography. “(The choreography) brought a lot of things together, and that affects the costumes and how the DP is going to shoot something and (how the director moves), all of that. It was great when I started choreographing. And then it was like, “Okay, so they’re going to have a moment here with this set, so I just have to make sure there’s room.” It’s really always a collaborative effort in a TV show, but especially in a musical.”
Another element that the music world freed McCall to play with was color. “Schmigadoon!” it goes well beyond the neutral naturalism of contemporary taste. But for the most part, it eschews all-black and neon as well, instead going for something closer to that “Mary Poppins” twilight. McCall’s bold color contrasts make Season 2’s flop house seem even grimmer, the cabaret even cooler, and the hippie commune even more absurd, but they all have an artifice that makes them great comedic stages. “The show gave me a lot of freedom. I wanted it to be grounded in reality but still have a sense of theater. So I got to play more with color and things I wouldn’t normally do,” McCall said.
Nowhere is the play with color more apparent than in the commune, which McCall has crafted to be just as vivid as any of the Season 1 sets, but the chaos and lack of symmetry is at a level that expresses exactly how freely the love flows. in the group, to put it kindly. “The commune was something that I really had to push because there are so many different elements and spaces and it was outdoors. This was one of the most challenging sets for me to come up with,” said McCall. “But because the script was so well written and it really painted a beautiful picture for me to envision these sets, when I started planning them and working with Cinco, it all came together.”
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