Best known for her extensive Broadway career but familiar to TV fans as stage manager Linda on NBC's Smash, Ann Harada has carved out a reputation for herself as an actress who not only sings and dances but serves up comedy to make your sides split laughing.
Currently, audiences are falling in love with her as Florence Menlove, the supportive and quirky wife of the mayor of the surreal town of Schmigadoon on Apple TV+.
Speaking with TV Fanatic during a virtual press day, Harada expressed her genuine appreciation for the opportunities afforded her as a part of Cinco Paul's musically magical production.
Despite her many roles on screen and on stage, Harada's straight acting gigs and ones requiring her musical theatre skills have tended to remain in separate realms.
"I don't have that much experience on film with musicals. On Smash, I wasn't supposed to be singing. To have a part on a TV series where I get to be in a musical with all these unbelievable Broadway superstars is the thrill of a lifetime.
"And, to be able to do it during the pandemic, just seemed like such a huge gift and opportunity that so many people didn't get to have.
"Unlike other people, I didn't have to say, 'I'm so frustrated. I have no outlet for my creativity!' It's been a dream and I love the way it turned out. I just think the look of it is so beautiful. The art direction. The costumes. Everything. It's gorgeous."
Florence Menlove is a far cry from Avenue Q's Christmas Eve, the heavily-accented Japanese therapist Harada is most famous for portraying, and yet, the two share a sincerity and considerateness in their characters while delivering some truly LOL moments.
On Schmigadoon! Season 1 Episode 3, Harada shows off that beautiful voice of hers with the utterly sincere love ballad about her on-screen husband, "He's a Queer One, That Man o' Mine," which sports an avalanche of hints about said husband's true self.
Show me any other man more tender or expressive. / I only wish that, nightly, he were slightly more aggressive. / Sometimes it may seem that he is too good to be true / Like there's a man that I can't see just aching to break through. / I wish I could free him / So I could finally see him / The way he truly is and let him shine. / He's a queer one / That man o' mine!Florence (singing)
As Florence is a unique character in musical theatre -- a loving and beloved spouse without a speck of conflict -- did Harada find any characters to reference when preparing for the role?
"Not specifically any particular character, but I did go back to the canon for the songs that her song reminded me of, and I listened to those songs.
"What those songs have in common is the feeling of, 'This is my man and I love him. No matter what.' And I just sort of hung on to that as a concept."
In the role of Aloysius Menlove is the indomitable Alan Cumming. Had they worked together before becoming Schmigadoon's First Couple?
"I'd met him, of course. The Broadway community is not that big so we all had met and shook each other's hands at some point in the game. But I'd never really worked with him before.
"Surprisingly -- or not -- he's one of the most charming men you will ever meet. And so, falling in love with him is not hard. And my respect for him is such, my admiration for him is such, that that aspect of the relationship also was not hard."
For those of you caught up to Schmigadoon! Season 1 Episode 4, you know that Florence is taken off-guard (along with pretty much every other Schmigadonian) when Aloysius reveals -- nay, proclaims -- his homosexuality to the world at Doc Lopez the Elder's funeral.
It says a lot for what Harada has brought to the role that our hearts go out to Florence as she flees the church, even as we celebrate Aloysius's freedom to be true to himself.
Schmigadoon! was truly an unlikely production to bet on in an industry currently leaning towards catastrophe and post-apocalyptic dramas.
However, it seems from everyone we've spoken to about it, the magic of the show carried it from the beginning.
"Doing a musical is so hard under normal circumstances. So to be able to do something on this level, during a pandemic, in another country, just seemed insane.
"But then, when we all got there, it felt like camp in that we were all there together, and you build your little family, your little planet of Schmigadoon, where you don't really talk to anybody else because you're in your own pandemic bubble.
"So these are all your friends, these are the only people you'll ever talk to for three months. And there was something about that bonding that was so so special.
"If you would've told me that, at some point, Kristin Chenoweth was going to text me at one-thirty in the morning and go, 'Doctor Pimple Popper is on!' I would not have believed you. But it happened. Yeah!"
Be sure to catch Harada's triumphant return as Florence Menlove on the Schmigadoon! finale that drops on Apple TV+ on Friday, August 13.
And stay tuned for our reviews and even more interviews with Schmigadoon! cast members!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.