Aaron Tveit on ‘Schmigadoon’, Returning to ‘Moulin Rouge’ and Wanting to Work With Denis Villeneuve

Aaron Tveit has been a fixture on New York stages, appearing in shows including “Wicked,” “Next to Normal” and “Catch Me if You Can,” and he recently wrapped a second run as Christian in “Moulin Rouge!,” which bowed before the pandemic arrived and returned after Broadway reopened. But it’s television that has been helping him most rapidly expand his repertoire.

Tveit takes on a cavalcade of roles in Apple TV+’s “Schmigadoon!,” a parodical love letter to musicals, created by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio and starring Keegan Michael-Key and Cecily Strong as a couple working out the kinks in their relationship in a magical land populated by characters from the stage. The series, which focused on musicals of the ’40s and ’50s in its first season, sends up shows of the ’60s and ’70s in its second, set in the magical land of “Schmicago.”

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What was it like coming back for a second season?

We weren’t sure where the show would go from Season 1, because there’s a nice bow on it that closed the story. So it’s a testament to Cinco Paul and the writers that they brilliantly take source material from
these musicals that everyone knows and loves and honor them without making fun of them.

The season’s third episode, “Bells and Whistles,” pays homage to classic musicals including “Hair” and “Sweeney Todd.” What was it like to get that script?

In Season 1, I got to live out my “Carousel” dreams; I’d never play Billy Bigelow [otherwise]. This year, I get to be this weird version of Pippin, Jesus from “Godspell” and “Jesus Christ Superstar,” Claude from “Hair” and Judas from “Jesus Christ Superstar” all rolled into one.

To see the musicals represented in this way is so smart. What’s fascinating about this era is that they are all vastly different, but they somehow still function together. So when it becomes “Hair,” we’re in the junkyard and it’s energetic and different from the grit and darkness that happens in the club
[based on “Cabaret”]. That was fun to lean into and to play these parts that I never got to do onstage.

What was it like performing “Everyone’s Got to Get Naked”?

Anyone that knows “Hair” knows that there’s a moment when everyone gets naked. The [TV] audience knows this is probably coming at some point if they know the musical. But because Keegan’s character is very rigid, it’s the last thing in the world that he wants to do. It was another instance on the show where the more ridiculous we can be [the better it] works. It was such fun shooting that number because, at every moment it was like, how do we make Keegan uncomfortable? How do we make his character laugh?

As a theater kid, what was it like paying homage to these musicals?

There are so many seminal shows, from “Sweeney Todd” to “Cabaret,” and those are
my favorite musicals of any era. It’s also when I think the art form of musical theater started to change. They’re quite conceptual, and they’re not as literal as “Oklahoma” or “Carousel.” The biggest thing is the social commentary that happens in these shows. You watch a show, and you don’t necessarily
know at first that there’s messaging and that it’s making you think of real things and holding a mirror up to society. And by the end, you say, “Oh, wow, that was a really interesting theme” or “That was something that I didn’t think about.”

What was it like going back to “Moulin Rouge!” after such a long break?

It’s been a wild dream. I’ve never been in a show before where I was a part of the creation process that I ever had a chance to go back to. Going back has been wonderful. The audiences have been incredible. Tourism in New York City has come back since I’ve been gone, so the audiences feel vibrant.

Shifting sands: He’s reading the “Dune” series and is on the sixth book: “I am obsessed with Denis Villeneuve as a director, and I’d love to work with him. Put that out there!”

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