Type keyword(s) to search


Broadway Legends Are Almost Enough to Justify a Second Season of Schmigadoon!

Even without much story, the song-and-dance show has some razzle dazzle.
  • Keegan-Michael Key and Cecily Strong in Season 2 of Schmigadoon! (Photo: Apple TV+)
    Keegan-Michael Key and Cecily Strong in Season 2 of Schmigadoon! (Photo: Apple TV+)

    The second season of Apple TV’s Schmigadoon! picks up 10 seconds after the end of the first — we know because a title card tells us — which gives the misleading impression that there were unanswered questions to explore. But troubled couple Melissa Gimble (Cecily Strong) and Josh Skinner (Keegan-Michael Key) worked out their romantic problems the last time around, after stumbling into a strange, magical town where everyone was trapped in a Golden Age musical loop. Along with plenty of song and dance, their story had a clear resolution. The new season of the Apple TV+ series feels more like a successful rom-com’s obligatory sequel than the advancement of an existing narrative.

    Nor are the stakes of the new adventure especially high. As the story begins, Melissa and Josh might’ve found love, but they’re lacking the “happy ending” that mature adults should understand isn’t so easily achieved. Besides, they’re successful New York doctors: It’s not as if their world is crashing around them. While their frustrations are certainly relatable, they’re not unresolvable. Nonetheless, they’re soon running back to Schmigadoon for some kind of relief. It’s a fantastical version of a well-off couple’s long weekend getaway, where instead of wine tasting, they hope to reprise their past musical triumph.

    The twist is that Schmigadoon is now Schmicago. The clunky portmanteau implies that Chicago plays as large a thematic role as Brigadoon did in the previous season, but this isn’t really the case. The series mines a hit parade of 1960s and 1970s musicals, including Chicago, Sweeney Todd, A Chorus Line, Pippin, Hair, Sweet Charity, and Cabaret. Director and choreographer Bob Fosse’s influence looms large, to the point that even the riff on A Chorus Line exists somewhat in Fosse-land.

    Along with moving forward in musical theater time, the season flips the original premise, in which Melissa and Josh were normal people with complex problems whose interactions with residents of a less sophisticated reality were an ongoing source of comedic conflict. The couple still stands out in Schmicago, but this time it’s because their own struggles have less weight than the life-and-death dramas facing the characters from these darker shows.

    Most of the first season’s cast returns in new roles. The consistently brilliant Jane Krakowski razzle dazzles as Bobby Flanagan, a gender-flipped version of Chicago’s Billy Flynn, who readily acquits herself for all her brazen scene-stealing. She has the best number in the entire season, a knockout spectacle that demands Emmy consideration. Academy Award winner Ariana DeBose is unfortunately underused, though she does have a lovely, Dreamgirls-inspired number. Playing a version of the emcee from Cabaret, DeBose is perhaps a victim of dueling parodic concepts, because Tituss Burgess’ spin on Pippin’s The Leading Player does most of the fourth-wall breaking commentary.

    New to the series is Patrick Page as the season’s heavy, Octavius Kraft, but he doesn’t quite match Kristin Chenoweth’s delightfully sinister (and more politically relevant) Mildred Layton from Schmigadoon! Chenoweth herself is back as Miss Coldwell, a combination of Mrs. Lovett from Sweeney Todd and Miss Hannigan from Annie. She’s wonderful in every scene she shares with Alan Cumming, who’s perfectly cast as the demon barber homage Dooley Flint.

    Assembling these Broadway musical powerhouses in one place easily makes Schmicago worth a visit. Season 1 aired months before Broadway officially reopened after the pandemic, when it was an open question whether we’d ever safely enjoy live musical theater again. This amplified the show’s nostalgic appeal, and two years later, musicals still struggle within a tough economy. A quirky series like this one can run forever on our screens. (Hopefully.)

    The music, from co-creator and showrunner Cinco Paul, is just as impressive as his Emmy-winning work in Season 1. Paul deftly captures the spirit of classic numbers while still producing something fresh for audiences who might not have seen the originals. His arrangements are often pleasant surprises that fit seamlessly with the storyline. (There’s one unexpected moment that is sure to delight fans of Jesus Christ Superstar.)

    At its weakest, the new season insists upon a glib self-awareness that keeps its audience at a distance, but when it embraces earnestness, even briefly, the material truly sings. The irony here is that even the so-called “dark” musicals the show spoofs often have moments of unaffected optimism. A musical character like Roxie Hart, Sally Bowles, or Charity Hope Valentine can break our hearts only after they’ve bared their own. If there’s another season, then Melissa and Josh could benefit from more vulnerability and less snark, so that the comedy can be deepened by emotional heft.

    The second season of Schmigadoon! premieres April 5 on Apple TV+. Join the discussion about the series in our forums.

    Stephen Robinson is a political columnist, arts writer, and theatre maker.

    TOPICS: Schmigadoon!, Apple TV+, Alan Cumming, Ariana DeBose, Cecily Strong, Jane Krakowski, Keegan-Michael Key, Kristin Chenoweth, Patrick Page, Tituss Burgess