Schmigadoon Season 2 Review: A Delightful Return To Form For The Musical Comedy Series

Though it is perhaps not the buzziest title among Apple TV+'s offerings, the musical comedy "Schmigadoon!" was a surprising and pleasantly charming riff on some classic Broadway shows. Premiering in the summer of 2021, "Schmigadoon!", as its title would imply to those in the know, spoofed old-fashioned musicals like "Brigadoon," "The Music Man," and "Oklahoma!", with the twist that a modern couple found themselves magically transported into a world combining elements of these stage shows and could only get out by renewing and better understanding their love for each other. If "Schmigadoon!" had wrapped as a single-season miniseries, ending on a tentative but hopeful note, that would've been fine. But there are other eras of Broadway to spoof, and thankfully, we now have a second, very loopy, yet slightly edgier season of "Schmigadoon!", picking up almost exactly where it left off in terms of its story and high quality.

At the end of the first season, couple Josh and Melissa (Keegan-Michael Key and Cecily Strong) had grown closer to each other through their strange experiences in Schmigadoon, and were allowed to return to their home in modern-day New York City after having learned valuable lessons about life and love. But as an opening montage in the new season makes clear, Josh and Melissa weirdly long to return to Schmigadoon, as they find NYC a bit dull (and even after getting married, finding it impossible to conceive a child of their own). So one day, they get dressed in their best old-fashioned clothes, trying to return but finding a much darker place called Schmicago. As that name would imply, the second season, premiering April 5, may have brought back most of the first season's performers, but in different roles and a darker setting, riffing on shows like "Chicago," "Sweeney Todd," "Hair," and "Cabaret." All of those 1960s and-1970s-era musicals are brilliant, but it's notable that none of them really sport a traditional happy ending.

Co-creator Cinco Paul (Ken Daurio also co-created the series, but isn't a credited writer this season) is largely able to avoid any greater creative issue in the second season of "Schmigadoon!" in large part because his reverence for these shows seems about as deep as that of more old-fashioned musicals. And it helps that, once more, this show's supporting cast is stacked with the best and brightest of the last few decades of Broadway history. Alan Cumming and Kristin Chenoweth return, this time doing a gleeful parody of Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett from Stephen Sondheim's Grand Guignol musical. Jane Krakowski shows up again as a slick attorney, doing a gender-flipped version of Billy Flynn from "Chicago." And newly minted Oscar winner Ariana DeBose shows up again doing the thing, AKA portraying a version of the menacing Master of Ceremonies from "Cabaret." The cast is also joined this year by the always charming Tituss Burgess as a maddeningly enigmatic and elusive narrator (a riff on Ben Vereen's work in "Pippin").

A novel twist on a musical delight

Part of the fun of this season (I've seen all six episodes) comes if you know enough not only about the shows being spoofed but the respective resumes of some of these actors. It's funny enough to watch Cumming and Chenoweth bouncing off each other again, in much different roles than they had in the first season; it's funnier still to see them grousing about orphans they have to deal with, specifically if you recall that they respectively played the incorrigible Rooster and Lily in the TV-movie version of "Annie" over 20 years ago. It's enjoyable enough to see DeBose as the MC of a seedy nightclub a la "Cabaret" before remembering that one of Alan Cumming's breakout roles in the United States was ... playing the MC in an actual Broadway revival of "Cabaret." And so on.

The other novel twist in this season is in flipping the script on its predecessor. The opening season put Josh and Melissa at odds because Josh was almost vehemently unfamiliar with and uninterested in the Broadway musicals being referenced, while Melissa not only recognized them but was more than happy to get involved in the musical proceedings. This time around, due to some childhood trauma, Melissa's only vaguely aware of the shows serving as inspiration for this parable, and Josh finds himself almost instantly hooked on the more adult, darker tones evinced by nightclub dancers, thieves, and others. It's a natural progression of where the show went (also ensuring a lack of distracting mid-show commentary about how baffling it is that characters just up and sing and dance at a moment's notice).

If there is any potentially dicey aspect, it's this: if you are familiar with shows like "Chicago," "Cabaret," and "Sweeney Todd," you know that what makes these musicals so memorable and so effective is that they do not shy away from the darkness. "Cabaret" is full of dexterous and deft music, and seeing as it's set in Germany in the early days of the Nazi regime, it does not attempt to spruce things up with a happy ending. "Sweeney Todd" is about a crazed ex-con who kills people and turns them into meat pies (reductive, but still accurate). These are not bright and happy shows, nor even is another of this season's inspirations, "Hair," whose hippie characters are turned sour by the onslaught of the Vietnam War. "Schmigadoon!" is still, at its heart, a show that loves its two lead characters and is invested enough in their happiness to not indulge too deeply in darkness. (Suffice it to say, there are no actual Nazis or human meat pies in this season.)

But these are still trifling matters in what has stealthily become one of the most delightful streaming-era shows to date. "Schmigadoon!" wears its heart on its sleeve, even when things get too dark or too groovy (there is a fair deal of hippie humor, allowing Key to play a few extra notes in Josh's repertoire). Both Key and Strong fit back into their roles smoothly, and the cast surrounding them is only too happy to both embrace and playfully skewer Broadway-musical tropes. "Schmigadoon!" felt like an unexpected magic trick the first time around, and miraculously, the second season is just as winning.

"Schmigadoon" season 2 premieres April 5 on Apple TV+.