‘Schmigadoon’ Season 2 review: Welcome to the darker, sexier Schmicago
If you paid close attention to the musical references in Schmigadoon! Season 1’s final number(Opens in a new tab), you knew exactly where Apple TV’s theatrical comedy would be taking us next.
While the first season directly parodied Golden Age musicals like Oklahoma! and The Sound of Music, the show’s big closer “How We Change” drew on the sound of later Broadway composers. With that musical evolution, Schmigadoon! makes the leap into its second season — and a new, darker era of musicals, from the likes of Stephen Sondheim, Stephen Schwartz, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tim Rice, John Kander, Fred Ebb, Bob Fosse, Gerome Ragni, James Rado, and more.
Schmigadoon! gets a whole new world to play in in Season 2.
Tituss Burgess in “Schmigadoon!”
Credit: Apple TV+
Schmigadoon! Season 2 picks up a few years after the end of Season 1. Melissa (Cecily Strong) and Josh (Keegan-Michael Key) have settled into married life, but they can’t shake the feeling that they should be much, much happier. A return trip to Schmigadoon seems like just the solution they need to get a happy ending. After all, what could be better than a joyful song and dance number performed by an ensemble of Broadway greats?
However, when the two stumble back into the musical world, they’re in for a rude awakening. Gone are the rolling hillsides and quaint houses of Schmigadoon. They’ve been replaced by the seedy nightclubs and corrupt courtrooms of the city of Schmicago, where the musicals of the ’60s and ’70s come to life.
It’s a major stylistic twist, but it’s just the right high kick in the pants Schmigadoon! needs to remain fresh and fun. Darker, grittier shows like Sweeney Todd, Cabaret, and, of course, Chicago all get their shining moment in the spotlight. Unlike in Season 1, musical-loving Melissa is less familiar with these references, preferring her shows light and fun. This departure from Schmigadoon!‘s initial formula provides a welcome opportunity for Melissa and Josh to naively wreak naive throughout Schmicago.
Kristen Chenoweth in “Schmigadoon!”
Credit: Apple TV+
While the city of Schmicago is a wildly different environment from the village of Schmigadoon, almost all the town’s inhabitants are familiar faces from Season 1. Although here, they are playing entirely different characters.
Kristin Chenoweth is an orphan-hating cross between Annie‘s Miss Hannigan and Sweeney Todd‘s Mrs. Lovett, while Alan Cumming plays a cleaver-wielding butcher with similarities to a certain razor-wielding barber. Schmigadoon! pays tribute to Cabaret through Dove Cameron’s fast-talking, chair-dancing Jenny Banks, and Ariana DeBose’s take on the iconic Emcee. Elsewhere, Aaron Tveit leads a tribe of parable loving-hippies pulled straight from Hair with a sharp dash of Jesus Christ Superstar, and Jane Krakowski gets many chances to razzle dazzle us as a gender-swapped Billy Flynn from Chicago. When Josh framed for murder, she may be the only person who can save him from the electric chair.
Schmigadoon! also adds two tremendous new guest stars to its already phenomenal cast. First up is the always-hilarious Tituss Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)(Opens in a new tab) as Schmicago’s resident narrator. He welcomes us to the story with open arms, channeling Pippin‘s Leading Player, but quickly becomes exasperated by Melissa and Josh’s constant questioning. Any time these three bicker, you know you’re in for a delightful time.
Then, there’s Patrick Page as the villainous Octavius Kratt, whose sharp suits and industrial ventures can’t help but call to mind Page’s turn as Hades in 2019’s Hadestown. (I know Schmigadoon! isn’t in our current musical era yet, but the likeness is startling.) Page brings his signature deeper-than-deep voice to this menacing role, giving us this season’s most chilling antagonist.
Schmigadoon!‘s musical numbers and Easter eggs are highlights of Season 2.
Dove Cameron in “Schmigadoon!”
Credit: Apple TV+
As someone who prefers ’60s and ’70s musicals to those of the Golden Age, I admit that I’m biased when I say that I enjoyed Season 2’s musical numbers even more than Season 1’s. The songs don’t tend to be overly satirical — apart from one number that would have been shocking by ’60s standards but which earns a very polite “oh, cool” from Josh and Melissa. So you’ll occasionally find yourself wishing the parody amounted to more. Still, you get Cumming and Chenoweth doing Sweeney Todd; Strong, Cameron, and DeBose doing Cabaret; and Krakowski doing a surprising mash-up of Chicago and Company. Talk about the greatest Broadway fanfiction ever! Add choreography and staging that pays excellent comedic tribute to the original, and you’ve got several standout numbers on your hands.
The tributes don’t stop at the musical numbers. Dialogue calls to mind iconic song lyrics or questions musical mores of yore. Storefronts and street signs are littered with references to famed composers of the era, while the costumes, in all their lingerie and bowler hat-wearing glory, immediately clue you into what show Schmigadoon! is referencing.
Schmigadoon! could risk being nothing but a string of parodies one after the other. But this season is held together by a sweet storyline about working towards happiness — not just for Josh and Melissa, but for everyone in the city, too. Sure, as a moral it’s a tad simplistic, and six episodes don’t give Schmigadoon! too much time to really delve into each of its characters’ lives. However, that doesn’t stop Schmigadoon!‘s journey through the ’60s and ’70s from being a complete blast. I mean, when you’ve got a cast this fantastic and songs this delightful, is it really possible to go wrong?
The first two episodes of Schmigadoon! hit AppleTV+ Apr. 5, with new episodes streaming weekly on Fridays.(Opens in a new tab)