There are parts of “Schmigadoon!” Season 2 which has the atmosphere of a summer camp reunion, where old friends get together to put on a show. After being a key part of the Apple TV+ show’s opening season, Dove Cameron returned to the Season 2 ensemble to play Jenny Banks, a freewheeling spirit cut in part from the mold of “Cabaret” heroine Sally Bowles .
Though he wasn’t in the first run of episodes, Tituss Burgess fits right into this world of winking, lovingly told musical theater riffs. As the narrator of the second season, he welcomes viewers to most of the episodes set in the town of Schmicago, a land full of references to 1970s stage shows.
In a conversation for IndieWire’s Awards Spotlight, Cameron and Burgess talked about the possibilities each of them had to navigate within this hyper-specific and stylized tonal playground, overseen by showrunner and series co-creator Cinco Paul.
“If there’s time, Cinco will always let you make a ‘fuck it’ pass,” Cameron said. “If you’ve done it all, it’s always my favorite thing. I’m like, ‘Shit, pass?’ where you simply do whatever your vision is for the scene. And so often the performers of this show are such dreamers that they come up with some other weird thing that makes it happen.
For all the freedom the pair had, they each credited Paul and the series’ writing staff for giving them enough in the text to serve as their constant guide.
“Create a playful atmosphere. This man, you rarely find a showrunner who doesn’t operate out of ego. Working with him, working with them and everyone on this show is probably the most creatively satisfying collaborative experience I’ve had in front of the camera to date,” Burgess said. “It sets the tone and allows us to go in and screw it up, and then see what’s left in the debris, because there’s a lot of good stuff on the ground.”
Having a strong foundation is even more important when filming a music TV show. The production demands are completely different from stage flow, where part of the process is discovering things through repetition and putting together a show over weeks of rehearsals. Here, all those individual components have been compressed in a fraction of the time.
“These numbers are on a musical-theater scale, with no rehearsal time,” Cameron said. “Normally you would have had months and months of preparation to feel the rhythm of the number. You don’t get that in a show like this. And so it’s really just about standing on your toes and doing the home work and then crossing every limb you bring out.
A large part of finding the same kind of everyday spontaneity as theater was being able to sing on set. At times, some logistical sequences required the actors to work with some pre-recorded tracks, but some scenes wouldn’t capture that same spark unless the people on screen had a chance to sing to each other (or the audience) .
“We always want to sing live because that’s what we do. This is our jam. So for me, that’s not a problem” Burgess said.
“You don’t know what the character is when you’re jump recording. And if I got stuck with the character choices I made in the booth two months before shooting a number, I would be so mad at myself,” Cameron said. “Especially for the more intimate numbers like mine and Aaron’s (Tveit ), you just have to tune in person. You just gotta tune in and be in love and kissing and all that while singing. Otherwise it just feels stale.
For more on Dove Cameron’s conversation with Tituss Burgess, watch the entire video embedded above.