Kicking off two years after the end of Season 1, Josh and Melissa have made it back to their lives in New York and are settling in nicely, back at work with a new lease on life and on their relationship. The sunny outlook of Schmigadoon really seems to have had an impact on them. Slowly, however, the hardships of reality begin to set in, and the two reach their breaking point as they struggle to start a family. So they pack their bags and head back to Schmigadoon, hoping to at least recapture some of the magic, where everything else has gone wrong. Or, rather, they try. Just as they give up and decide to head home, their car stalls on a familiar stone bridge. They cross through the haze and the fog… and find themselves in the seedy, smokey, brightly-lit streets of Schmicago, where they’re greeted by The Narrator (Titus Burgess) and some familiar faces in unfamiliar roles, including Dove Cameron and Alan Cumming, with brand-new parts to play in this brand-new era.
In Season 2, despite their troubles at the outset, Schmigadoon! no longer dwells on Josh and Melissa’s relationship woes, instead banding them together as their one-night stay in Schmicago dives into the unknown when Josh is mistakenly arrested for murdering a showgirl at the cabaret where Jenny Banks (Cameron) works. It then falls to Melissa to prove his innocence in a corrupt town overseen by the shady Octavius Kratt (a chilling Patrick Page), where everyone seems very eager to sweep things under the rug and move on.
The entire cast old and new, including a wonderfully over-the-top Kristin Chenoweth, and a well-meaning-if-oblivious Aaron Tveit, fall seamlessly into their new roles for the season. Though early on Josh and Melissa occasionally reference their previous encounters with Schmicago residents in Schmigadoon, the show never makes you feel as though something is missing. That could have been a harder sell, given that the two lead characters remain the same while the rest of the cast shift roles completely, but the world around them feels so fully realized, it never misses a beat.
As the alternate title of Season 2 suggests, the second go-around is no longer pulling from the Golden Age of Hollywood musicals — The Sound of Music, The Music Man, Oklahoma — but instead from the darker, grittier musicals of the 1970s. The title, of course, is derived from Chicago, but there are traces of Cabaret, Hair, Sweeny Todd, Annie, and even Jesus Christ Superstar here too. This era of musicals was probably less common with the babysat-by-grandma bunch among us, but fortunately, the show doesn’t rely too much on familiarity with the premises in order to understand what’s going on or appreciate the humor in Josh and Melissa’s newest predicament. Even if you find yourself less familiar with these musicals, you’ll be surprised just how much has sunk in through pure cultural osmosis. The music, truly the backbone of the show, is even catchier in Season 2. Showrunner Cinco Paul has truly pulled out all the stops for the latest batch of tracks, which seamlessly bridge over from the flashy Rodgers & Hammerstein style to the brassier showstoppers of the new era.
Schmigadoon! really thrives in Season 2 with its approach to the premise. Fundamentally, it remains the same as it was in the first season, with Josh and Melissa trapped in a town confined by the rules, logic, and stylings of a particular era of musicals — but where it surpasses Season 1 is how willing it is to really lean into the absurd premise. Josh and Melissa spent so much of Season 1 reacting to this strange world and to the bizarre circumstance of breaking into song or the heightened behavior of those around them. This time, they know how the game is played, as does the audience. By allowing them to quickly embrace their reality and roll with the weird, Season 2 lets them engage with and become immersed more deeply with the plot earlier on, rather than simply react to it.
The true strength of the second season is how thoughtful it manages to be, even while the absurdity and comedy from the first season are still present. With Key and Strong taking the lead, it’s hard for it not to. At the heart of a story that could easily have been snarky and jaded is a refreshing sincerity, with a clear message of what it means to thrive, rather than merely survive. The sweeping, Golden Age style Season 1 of Schmigadoon! represented a brightly colored veneer over the way we see the world and the way we wish it could be. The grittier Season 2 takes that original premise and drastically sets wishful thinking aside in favor of tackling reality head-on — but without losing its charm and whimsy along the way.
Schmigadoon! Season 2 premieres on Apple TV+ with two episodes on April 5.