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Schmigadoon! Season 2 Cast Packed the House With Showstopping Numbers

The musical comedy’s follow-up allowed its wildly talented ensemble to shine even more.
  • Ariana DeBose, Tituss Burgess, Cecily Strong, Jane Krakowski, and Jaime Camil in Schmigadoon! (Photo: Apple TV+; Primetimer graphic)
    Ariana DeBose, Tituss Burgess, Cecily Strong, Jane Krakowski, and Jaime Camil in Schmigadoon! (Photo: Apple TV+; Primetimer graphic)

    Things got darker in Season 2 of Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio’s Schmigadoon! — while Season 1’s quest for a happy ending seemed almost too easy, any sort of resolution seemed impossible in the new environs of Schmicago. Yet this world was more appealing to the show’s central couple, Josh (Keegan-Michael Key) and Melissa (Cecily Strong). Josh found his place among a group of Hair-inspired hippies, becoming their leader by telling Godspell-like parables. Melissa became the headliner of the Cabaret-esque club, belting her heart out in the spotlight every night. Even though they were entangled in a murder plot in their final hours in Schmicago, they still found themselves on the fence about leaving once they were able to cross the Schmigadoon bridge back into the real world.

    But Josh and Melissa weren’t the only ones having trouble saying goodbye — viewers will also miss the world Schmigadoon! created in Season 2, even more than that of Season 1. Not only did the new season, which wrapped on May 3, carve out a space that made Josh and Melissa feel right at home, it gave the talented cast even more room to shine.

    Schmigadoon! is loosely anthological: Josh and Melissa, the main characters, carry over from season to season, but the rest of the cast and the world they exist in changes. Season 1 was based on the Golden Age of musicals, and used devices from shows like The Music Man, Oklahoma!, and Carousel to tell a story about true love. The ensemble cast filled out the world accordingly: Ariana DeBose as the town schoolteacher, Dove Cameron as one of the farmer’s many daughters, Kristin Chenoweth as the preacher’s judgmental wife, Aaron Tveit as the carnival-working rapscallion, Jaime Camil as the Captain Von Trapp-inspired town doctor, Jane Krakowski as a rich elegant countess, Alan Cumming as the town’s mayor, and Ann Harada as his wife.

    Their skills were undeniable, and perfectly suited to the initial, Brigadoon-inspired framework of the series. But in Season 1, there was a lot of overlap between musical references, which made for cohesive storytelling, but more one-note characters. The darker and more complex stories of the musicals from the ’60s and ’70s gave each actor the opportunity to play a more nuanced role even in the show’s broadest moments, and show off their incredible range.

    In Season 2, each performer was able to more fully showcase their talents. Cameron moved from a more child-like role into her Season 2 character Jenny Banks, an amalgam of Cabaret’s Sally Bowles and Sweeney Todd’s Johanna. Instead of just playing her character for laughs (while still highlighting her incredible singing voice) as she did in Season 1, Cameron drew on her showmanship and undeniable stage presence as Jenny in flashy numbers like “Kaput,” as well as brought more depth to her love story with Tveit’s Topher (a mix of the leads from Pippin, Hair, and Godspell), especially in their duet “Something Real.”

    The casting is so spot-on this year, it’s a wonder these actors haven’t been seen in these roles before. Of course Cumming should play Sweeney Todd alongside Chenoweth’s Mrs. Lovett. Their singing voices are perfectly suited for the Sweeney parody “Good Enough to Eat.” They play off each other with ease, letting their characters’ darkness shine through while still keeping things light and funny.

    Similarly, the role of a sequin-covered version of fast-talking Chicago lawyer Billy Flynn seems tailor-made for Krakowski. And her former Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt co-star Tituss Burgess fit in just as seamlessly as The Narrator (a spin on Pippin’s leading player), which allows him to equally show off his chops without disrupting the dynamics and callbacks to Season 1 among the rest of the characters.

    But it was even more exciting to watch certain performers take on iconic Broadway roles and make them their own. DeBose's first appearance as the Emcee is an inspired homage to the Cabaret character of the same name — a role that is rarely gender-swapped, especially on major stages where DeBose now performs. But her take on the character in Season 2, Episode 1, "Welcome to Schmicago," may motivate major theater producers to reconsider. In later episodes, the Oscar winner performs songs in other styles while in the same role. Despite being part of Season 1’s central story, DeBose takes a backseat to Season 2’s main narrative, but that gives her room to simply deliver showstopping performances on Schmicago’s club stage throughout, bringing playfulness and a set of impressive pipes to make her every appearance a standout moment in the series.

    The finale “Over and Done” also makes the case for Camil leading a revival of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which hasn’t been on Broadway since 2002. Camil may have only channeled Dr. Frank-N-Furter for a few bars on the Schmicago stage, but he unlocked an exciting potential new vision. And while Strong once more plays Melissa, she packs a Saturday Night Live episode’s worth of variations into her performance, singing her heart out and showing captivating theatrical flair.

    Each of these individual performances led to a stronger and more complex season overall. That may be in part because of the cast’s love for the source material — the passion for each number is obvious in the end result. By giving every performer, including returning leads Key and Strong, something completely new to explore in Season 2, the show made great use of its anthology structure. The premise of being trapped in a musical could easily grow old fast, and the reminders about the rules of the show in Season 1 along with the cornier musical numbers (and a result, cornier performances) would have gotten even staler if repeated in Season 2. But the shift allowed Schmigadoon! to remind everyone that, first and foremost, it has one of the most talented casts on television.

    Schmigadoon! Seasons 1 and 2 are streaming on Apple TV+. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R. 

    TOPICS: Schmigadoon!, Apple TV+, Aaron Tveit, Alan Cumming, Ariana DeBose, Cecily Strong, Dove Cameron, Jamie Camil, Jane Krakowski, Keegan-Michael Key, Kristin Chenoweth, Tituss Burgess