Welcome to Schmicago!

Jane Krakowski, Jaime Camil, Dove Cameron and Alan Cumming in "Schmigadoon!" (Photo courtesy Apple TV.)

Josh Skinner (Keegan-Michael Key) and Melissa Gimble (Cecily Strong) learned the meaning of true love in season one of Schmigadoon! At the start of season two, they learn that love isn’t without its ups and downs. It’s during one of these downs—amidst their struggles to conceive—that the pair returns to the titular magical land, only to find that the 1950s-era musical setting of season one has evolved. It’s now darker, sexier, edgier—it’s Schmicago.

While Melissa and Josh were able to escape Schmigadoon and return to the real world by rediscovering their love for each other, Schmicago, they are informed, is their home until they can find “a happy ending.” With no guidance on what that means, they set out to find happy endings for themselves, then for others, with complications arising when Josh is arrested after being framed for murder. Melissa investigates undercover at a nightclub run by the mysterious and malevolent Octavius Kratt (Patrick Page), who falls for her. Revenge and intrigue, hippies and cannibalism (planned but not executed), and, of course, hijinks ensue.

The first season of Schmigadoon! was good fun, though it suffered at times from swinging too broadly when it came to parody. In their sophomore year, the writers have learned to be more nuanced. Gone are the heavy-handed jokes, like the first season song about sexual reproduction in the style of The Sound of Music’s ‘Do-Re-Mi’, or the closeted gay character named “Manlove.” The songs in season two are consistently clever and entertaining, and the plot dances—at times literally—from genre to genre with no clumsy missteps.

Standout numbers include: ‘Good Enough to Eat,’ ‘It’s My Turn Now,’ and ‘Bells and Whistles,’ performed by the always wonderful Jane Krakowski. Dove Cameron and Aaron Tveit’s love duet ‘Something Real’ epitomizes the show: something that is simultaneously satire and a high-quality example of the thing being satirized.

Most of the season one cast returns —Fred Armisen, sadly, is missing—with Dove Cameron playing a bigger role as Jenny Banks, a parody of Sally Bowles from Cabaret. Aaron Tveit plays her love interest Topher, a hippie cult leader with nods to Godspell and Hair. Alan Cummings and Kristin Chenoweth return as Dooley Flint and Mrs. Codwell, spoofing the demon barber and his conniving confidant in Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd. Besides Page, Tituss Burgess is a newcomer to the cast. He stands out as the omniscient and omnipotent Narrator, stealing the show with his mischievous plot manipulations and sarcastic, snippy relationship with Melissa and Josh, the only characters who can see him.

Countless musicals from the 1960s and 1970s are affectionately ribbed—more, I must confess, than I recognized. But even those with only superficial Broadway knowledge can appreciate Schmigadoon! The show is warm, silly fun, and the cast has impeccable chemistry. Now five episodes in, this season of Schmigadoon! has been a delight. The finale airs Wednesday, leaving plenty of time to catch up before the curtain call.

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