Schmigadoon! Season 2 review: A musical theatre fan’s dream
Sophie Davies | On 05, Apr 2023
After sending up golden-age musicals of the 40s and 50s, such as Oklahoma! and Carousel, Schmigadoon! becomes Schmicago! for Season 2 and turns its spotlight on the darker, edgier musicals of the 60s and 70s. It continues to be a musical theatre fan’s dream, full of more inside jokes and references than you could shake a stick at.
Since we last saw Melissa (Cecily Strong) and Josh (Keegan-Michael Key) in Season 1’s finale, they’ve got married, moved into their own house and started trying for a baby. But sometimes happy endings are only the beginning, and the pair eventually find themselves longing for the simplicity of life in Schmigadoon. Attempting to go back there for a dose of happiness, they return to the spot in the woods where they originally stumbled across it.
What they find this time, however, is very different from the cheery, colourful world they were expecting – Schmigadoon is now Schmicago, a town that’s all about “mystery and magic, endings that are tragic”. Not to mention “lots of sex, no romance”… They’ve landed firmly in the era of 60s and 70s musical theatre, complete with Bob Fosse-esque choreography and an omniscient, fourth-wall breaking narrator in the style of Pippin (played by one of the few new additions to the cast for Season 2, Tituss Burgess). Melissa isn’t so keen on this era of musicals because she’s “more into the earlier, happier ones”, while Josh is immediately on board with the cooler, less saccharine vibe.
The couple begin their stay in Schmicago by checking into a seedy hotel run by Madam Frau (Ann Harada) and meeting the town’s equivalent of Sally Bowles, Jenny Banks (Dove Cameron), before taking in a performance at the Kratt Club, owned by the menacing Octavius Kratt (Patrick Page). By the end of the night, one of the club’s showgirls is dead and Josh is in prison, accused of murder. Their only hope of freeing him is hiring Bobbie Flanagan (Jane Krakowski), a lawyer who believes that “winning a case is all about flimflam, flapdoodle and pizazz”, while Melissa gets a job performing at the Kratt Club to search for the real killer.
As the story progresses, Schmicago’s cast of characters expands to include Topher (Aaron Tveit) and his tribe of parable-telling hippies, as well as a vengeance-seeking butcher (Alan Cumming) and Miss Coldwell (Kristen Chenoweth), an excessively cockney combination of Mrs Lovett and Miss Hannigan. In addition to these Godspell, Hair, Sweeney Todd and Annie homages, we also get references to the likes of Jesus Christ Superstar, Company and A Chorus Line along the way.
This might sound like a lot to take in, and it probably could have become a mess in the wrong hands, but showrunner and songwriter Cinco Paul manages to weave together all of these different musicals in a cohesive way. He also strikes a perfect balance of parodying shows and paying tribute to them, with every joke clearly coming from a place of love for musical theatre.
Where Season 1 poked fun at the old-fashioned morals of golden-age musicals, Season 2 satirises the provocativeness of the next era in songs like ‘Do We Shock You?’ and the Mein Herr-esque ‘Kaputt’, which is so catchy it would barely feel out of place in a real production of Cabaret. Other musical highlights across the series include Topher’s hilariously earnest ballad ‘Doorway To Where’ (juxtaposed with confused interjections from Josh), as well as the earworms ‘Bustin’ Out’ and ‘Talk To Daddy’.
One sticking point of Season 1 is thankfully no longer an issue. Namely that it was difficult to root for Melissa and Josh’s relationship when we knew little about them and predominantly saw them bickering. In Season 2, they’re much more fun to spend time with as a couple who get on well and playfully tease each other rather than argue. Likewise, Season 1 Josh was grumpy and always criticising musicals. This time there’s a lot less complaining and, as a result, Keegan-Michael Key is given more opportunity to be funny.
Another strength of Season 2 is that we get more Jane Krakowski, who only appeared in the latter half of Season 1. As slick lawyer Bobbie Flanagan, a mixture of Chicago’s Billy Flynn and Roxie Hart, she gets to deliver the kind of laugh-out-loud funny one-liners that she was the queen of in 30 Rock. Her courtroom number ‘Bells and Whistles’, where she pulls everything out of the bag to defend Josh including a swing, sparklers and roller-skates, is a standout moment.
Schmigadoon! could have easily ended after just one season, having wrapped up its initial story of a struggling couple rekindling their relationship. It’s undoubtedly a good thing that it didn’t, however, because Season 2 improves upon its predecessor and will only leave musical theatre fans wanting even more. A third season moving on to the epic megamusicals of the 80s perhaps?