Dove Cameron is demanding more queer visibility in the musical theatre space.
The actress and singer returns for the second season of Schmigadoon, Apple TV’s lauded comedy series that follows a bickering married couple (played by Keegan-Michael Key and Cecily Strong) as they stumble across a magical town that’s trapped in a Golden Age-style musical.
The sophomore season sees Schmigadoon transform into Schmicago as the series pays homage to darker, grittier and raunchier musical productions of the 60s and 70s including Chicago, Cabaret and Sweeney Todd.
Following her role in season one as waitress Betsy McDonough, based on Ado Annie from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s inaugural classic Oklahoma!, Cameron’s new character Jenny Banks takes inspiration from Liza Minelli’s iconic Cabaret character Sally Bowles.
With “how transformative Cabaret was at the time for queer visibility” in 1966, Cameron and her co-star Aaron Tveit tell GAY TIMES that they’re dissatisfied with the lack of progress for LGBTQ+ storylines and characters in the musical genre.
“We were speaking about this yesterday, we need more queer visibility in musicals and more overtly, openly gay characters in our musicals. We don’t have as many as we all would’ve hoped at the time Cabaret premiered,” says Cameron.
Reflecting on the current political landscape for the LGBTQ+ community, which includes an onslaught of legislation targeting trans rights and the drag art-form, Cameron says it’s “more important than ever to inundate the media with drag performances” and “openly queer characters”.
“Media is controlling everything and it’s affecting everybody,” the Bad Idea singer continues, adding that it’s crucial for artists to “create a safe space for young queer people everywhere” within mainstream media.
@gaytimes YES, @Dove Cameron 👏👏👏 #dovecameron #dovecameronedit #dovecameronboyfriend #dovecameronedits #lgbtq #lgbtqnews #gaytiktok #lgbtqtiktok #lgbtqcommunity #dragban ♬ Music In Your Heart (Instrumental) – BLVKSHP
“All that the [conservatives] are doing is creating a narrative [based on hysteria] that is not true. The more positive images that we can put forward, the better,” adds Tveit.
The actor, whose character in Schmicago combines elements of the leading men in Pippin, Godspell and Hair, highlights how drag has been “woven into the fabric of so much of what we know about musical theatre, especially these musicals”.
On how season two differs from the first, he explains further: “Schmigadoon was wonderful, but it was in a box because those musicals put you and all the characters in a box. So this blew the walls off of that in every sense of the word.
“It’s darker, it’s sexier, it’s funnier, it’s all of those things. But also, as we’re talking about, you’re able to layer in real social messaging which is hopefully what great theatre does; after you watch it, you think about something that you necessarily didn’t even know you were watching.”
Key and Strong’s characters in the series, Josh Skinner and Melissa Gimble, are flabbergasted by the campy stylings of both Schmigadoon and Schmicago, which has been interpreted by fans as a metaphor for when heteronormativity meets queerness.
“Totally. Yes, I’ve never thought about it like that and now I’m gonna be thinking and watching with that point of view. But it’s totally true,” Dove says of the analogy.
“This show is so campy and full of so much levity and safety, and I think there is a comparison there between the missing language link between a lot of heteronormativity and queerness. It’s completely lost in translation.
“It’s reflecting a lot right now with everything that’s going on [politically] unfortunately.”
Premiering every Wednesday on Apple TV, the second season of Schmigadoon also stars Jaime Camil, Kristen Chenoweth, Alan Cumming, Ariana DeBose, Ann Harada, Jane Krakowski, Martin Short, Titus Burgess and Patrick Page.
Watch the trailer here or below.