Gone are the cheery songs of yesteryear, and so too is Schmigadoon. Long live Schmicago, in its dark, sexy glory!
AppleTV+’s Schmigadoon!, a comedy parodying Golden Age musicals, ended its first season on a happy note. Josh (Keegan-Michael Key) and Melissa (Cecily Strong), a squabbling couple stuck in a mythological musical village, got their happy ending. Having resolved their issues and helped the town, they left Schmigadoon eager to return to real life. But what happens to Golden Age musicals when the curtains come down?
In the two years since their musical detour, Josh and Melissa have married, but reality is increasingly mundane and depressing. Despite their desperation to leave Schmigadoon, they find themselves itching to go back. Costumed in cartoonishly kitschy clothing, they return to the forest where they found the magical, mystical town.
But everything’s changed. Schmigadoon has gone, and in its place is Schmicago, a gritty town of murder, mayhem, and fishnet stockings. The familiar faces—Alan Cumming and Jane Krakowski, among others—remain, but they’ve become new people, with no trace of their prior characters to be found.
As was the case last season, Melissa (a fan of musicals, unlike her husband) is the audience’s surrogate. “At one point musicals had narrators … you know, instead of a story,” she says, as Tituss Burgess’ aptly-named Narrator recaps the story so far.
As with all art forms, musicals have evolved since their last trip to Schmigadoon. Schmicago is an amalgam and parodical homage to Cabaret, Pippin, Sweeney Todd, Hair, and of course, Chicago. Cabaret gets the most love in the first two episodes—Dove Cameron and Ariana DeBose, formerly Schmigadoon’s most coquettish and sincere residents (respectively), are now tributes to Cabaret’s Sally Bowles and the Emcee.
The music, as ever, is a hilarious celebration and transformation of key tropes in 1970s musicals. “Do We Shock You?”, a tribute to Cabaret’s transgressive songs only affirms how much the world has changed. “I’ve got a tattoo, what do you think about that?” one singer croons, cocking an eyebrow. “Cool,” Josh says, unfazed.
Schmigadoon!’s balancing act succeeds again this season—its musical references are integral to the world-building, but not necessary to know in order to enjoy. The most noticeable references are fun, from the names of the cabaret dancers (they’re the orphans’ names in Annie) to Kristin Chenoweth’s hairstyle (a reference to Sweeney Todd’s Mrs. Lovett). The series strikes a fun balance—its sneakiest references are the ones for dedicated theater kids. (If “peas and carrots” or “character shoes” mean anything to you, you’ll fit right in.) And if the references fly over your head like a high kick, you won’t be lost. A parody that invites fans of the genre and includes skeptics is bound to succeed. For Schmigadoon! to pull that off once was a miracle—twice in a row is magic and all that jazz.
Feature image courtesy of Apple TV+
New episodes of Schmigadoon! drops Wednesdays on AppleTV+. Watch the trailer:
Schmigadoon! Season 2 - 8/10