Schmigadoon! Season 2 Review | I’ll Drink to That!

by Andrew Parker

A worthy and often hilarious follow-up to its ambitious and playful predecessor, the second season of Schmigadoon! changes up the types of musical movie and theatre conventions it originally sent up without sacrificing any of the heart, humour, or loveable strangeness. Instead of gently poking fun at and embracing the corny nature of wholesome classical musicals of the 1940s and 50s, series creators Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio set their sights on a darker and edgier time for the genre with impressively on point results. With this latest instalment, Schmigadoon! proves once again to be the type of parody that will resonate with fans and skeptics of the genre in equal measure.

Cecily Strong and Keegan Michael-Key return as newlywed doctors Melissa and Josh. After their time in the magical, musical hidden world of Schmigadoon, Melissa and Josh find themselves reinvigorated and ready to approach life with a new, more positive outlook. Unfortunately, two years later, the harsh, crushingly sad realities of the real world leave them wishing for a return to the place where everyone was sunny, happy, and always on the verge of breaking out into a song and dance number. Wanting to recapture that feeling, Melissa and Josh go back into the woods where they stumbled across the portal to Schmigadoon. While they don’t get back to where they wanted to go, Melissa and Josh do manage to find a gateway to a different sort of musical wonderland, Schmicago, a gritty, sexy, dangerous place where dreams seemingly go to die. It’s not at all what Melissa was hoping for, because she knows that these types of 60s and 70s musicals almost never have happy endings, but Josh is way more engaged by this place’s edginess. 

This swapping of mindsets – with Josh being the eager one and Melissa being flummoxed and wary – is just one of many tweaks to Schmigadoon!’s winning formula, but Key and Strong remain perfect straight-people to build such a high concept comedy around, offering the viewers believable avatars in a wholly unbelievable world. In an open, joking nod to what American Horror Story does with their continually shifting storylines, Schmicago is populated with familiar faces from Melissa and Josh’s previous journey, but they aren’t the same people they were before at all. People who were once open and helpful are now dark, mysterious figures with tragic backstories. Dove Cameron now plays an aspiring cabaret performer who might be a murderer. Alan Cumming now plays a butcher in the Sweeney Todd model. Kristin Chenoweth is a mean old orphanage proprietor who hates the kids in her care. Aaron Tveit portrays an aloof hippie who’s basically running a feel-good cult. Ann Harada is a tough talking club owner, Jane Krakowski a razzly-dazzly headline chasing lawyer, Jamie Camil a closeted cop working for the town villains, and a once again impeccable Ariana DeBose gets her Fosse on as a cabaret emcee. (No need to guess who delivers the most vocally impressive musical number here. It’s DeBose in a walk.) Just as the first time around, these stage and screen veterans bring all they can to the silly cause, with new cast additions Tituss Burgess (perfect as a smirking, malevolent narrator dosing out obvious metaphors and aiding in plot twists) and Patrick Page (as this season’s baddie, a lovelorn, ruthless business tycoon who only has eyes for Melissa) contributing to the overall vibe Paul and Daurio are going for perfectly.

Schmigadoon! once again holds both its characters and source materials in kindness, with its rib poking never mean spirited or sarcastic. It’s a show genuinely made with love for the characters within it and built around a couple with a relationship worth rooting for. Although the high concept zaniness, all star casting, and cheeky production design are major selling points for Schmigadoon!, it’s the heart and gumption of the show that make it such breezy fun to watch. Daurio and songwriter Paul want to put on a show that’s indebted to the classics, complete with fence swinging, showstopping musical numbers every several minutes, with all of them nicely straddling the fence between outright parody and lovingly silly homage. Schmigadoon! is always acknowledging and embracing its weirdness at every turn, but never talking down to the characters, audience, or sources. It’s both pleasantly and obviously artificial, but adoringly crafted to appeal to as wide a range of viewers as possible.

Much like the previous season, however, these expertly assembled pieces aren’t always a perfect fit. Whenever Schmigadoon! sets its sights on the likes of Cabaret, Chicago (obviously), or Dreamgirls, the show’s narrative roars to life. When that focus moves towards the likes of Sweeney Todd, Annie, Pippin, or Hair, the show remains likeable, but the momentum of the story lags a bit. The hippie stuff involving Josh falling in with a peace-and-love espousing commune is fun enough, but it does grind things to a halt, and while it’s still a type of musical that was being produced during Schmigadoon’s new cultural time frame, it’s at odds with everything else going on, slowing things down instead of picking them up.

But even the moments that feel at odds with the series as a whole remain impressive. At just six episodes that are thirty minutes each, Schmigadoon! manages to throw a lot of spectacle and silliness at the viewer without overwhelming them to the point of exhaustion or killing the joke. It’s wildly ambitious if you think about it. Who else would be mad enough to try and mash-up so many different Broadway musicals into a single package, write two dozen new songs, and wrap everything up satisfyingly and coherently in less of a running time than most stand alone stage shows? Pretty much no one would want to attempt that, which is what makes Schmigadoon! so special and unique. Here’s hoping the show can stick around long enough to cover the Andrew Lloyd Webber and jukebox musical years of Broadway productions.

Schmigadoon! Season Two streams on Apple TV+ starting Wednesday, April 5, 2023.

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