Willkommen! Bienvenue! Welcome to GGA’s recaps of Season 2 of Schmigadoon! Season 1, this musical comedy sitcom saw New York doctors Josh (Keegan-Michael Key) and Melissa (Cecily Strong) try to save their marriage by going on a couples’ retreat, only to end up in the mysterious town of Schmigadoon. There, a Leprechaun (Martin Short) tells Josh and Melissa to find true love, and they must stay in Schmigadoon, singing and dancing (and being sung and danced to) in the style of the Golden Age of Musicals.
But, find true love with one another, they do. And Season 1 ends with our two funny lovers leaving Schmigadoon, leaving us to wonder … where do we go from here? And that, my darlings, is where we get “Welcome to Schmicago.”
But before we start the main event, remember to silence your phones and that this recap is chock full of spoilers. Proceed at your own risk.
S02E01, “Welcome to Schmicago,” opens with the same credit sequence as Season 1. This episode is written by co-creator Cinco Paul and directed by Alice Mathias.
TITLE CARD: Ten seconds after Schmigadoon.
Josh and Melissa make it out, get married, move into a home … and get on with their lives, doctoring as doctors do, happy as clams. Until they start trying to get pregnant. Once it reaches the point that a patient threatens to sue Josh for something that isn’t his fault and a neighbor thinks a not-pregnant Melissa is with child, things start to get bleak.
Once they find out their current IVF cycle isn’t successful, the two decide to go looking for Schmigadoon. The cinematography in this whole intro section is excellent. It’s simultaneously hyper-realistic and fake; they look like they’re in an advertisement for antidepressants (or a car). The face acting in this particular scene had me a lil’ misty.
Then our lovely couple gets all decked out in ole timey garb for their repeat visit to Schmigadoon. Hawt. But try as they might, these doctors cannot find Schmigadoon (they’re about 98 years too early).
As they head back to NYC, they get a flat. On a bridge. They hear music. But … buzzing neon signs, white-gloved hands in black space … Toto, we’re not in Schmigadoon anymore. This is Schmicago.
And now we meet The Narrator (Tituss Burgess), a fabulous addition to this show. He (re)exposits Josh’s and Melissa’s reasons for searching for Schmicago and tells all of us that his town has “song, dance, lots of sex, no romance … mystery and magic, endings that are tragic.”
The Narrator’s backup dancers are mostly scantily clad Chicago–slash–Cabaret extras; however, there are a few familiar faces in the crowd. When he recognizes Alan Cumming, Josh calls him “Mayor,” the character Cumming played back in Season 1. But Cumming, adorned in a bloody costume, looks around all confused, for this season, he’s playing someone called Dooley Flint. (Hmm. Wonder how he feels about meat pies and barbering?)
Melissa, thanks to her love of all things musicals, catches on quickly that she and the hubs are in some sort of new production. Next, we see more familiar faces: Dove Cameron, now Jenny Banks, who “dreams of fame on the stage;” Jaime Camil, now Sergeant Rivera, “a man you shouldn’t trust,’ and Kristin Chenoweth, now Miss Coldwell, who quests to “end all this strife.”
Additionally, Schmicago is full of orphans, people searching for meaning and life, women full of lust, and a partridge in a pear tree.
Then, The Narrator starts narrating Josh and Melissa’s life, seemingly talking to no one. Melissa informs Josh that “at one point, a lot of musicals had narrators, you know, like, instead of a story.” The Narrator is not pleased.
Next, as our heroes enter the sultry, foggy night of Schmicago, looking for a place to stay, Melissa tells Josh that they are now clearly in the next phase of musicals. A-five-six-seven-eight! That’s your Post-Golden Age musicals. Think: Sondheim, Schwartz, Fosse. Melissa may be less familiar and less enthusiastic, but color me thrilled. This is my musical jam. She and I have remarkably opposing feelings about Sweeney Todd.
Josh doesn’t know what he’s getting into, but he likes it. So, Melissa tries to get him to see his error by telling him about all the imperfect rhymes this era’s musicals employ.
They find Hotel Schmicago, and Josh is eager to stay, while Melissa wants to leave; she wanted bright and cheery Schmigadoon, not this. Josh likes that this place is edgy like him (crickets).
At the hotel, the next new-old character they meet is Madam Frau (Ann Harada). Whereas last season they couldn’t book a room together because they weren’t married, this season Josh and Melissa need to clarify that yes, they want the room for the whole night and no, they don’t want to hire a third person for the evening.
The room is a dump(ster fire). There’s a massive leak in the ceiling, the bed squeaks, and
Sally Bowles Jenny bursts through the doors whenever she wants, asking for cigarettes, chipper AF. The nonsense she spews is nonsensical, but Cameron knocks it out of the park. Even better, Josh doesn’t recognize her from Schmigadoon.
Later, Melissa and Josh head down to the nightclub attached to the hotel. Everyone in the club is frozen like statues, including the performers. Until: “Do we shock you? Make you ill at ease?” This Kander/Ebb/Fosse-esque number might “scandalize” a specific demo out there, considering the “norms” its performers insist on “transgressing” are pretty much all sexuality and gender-related. Having said that, as Melissa puts it, “I’ve literally seen every season of Drag Race.”
As this song would have us think, the musicals of this particular era were trying very (too?) hard to shock people. Not being of that time period, I cannot say whether that’s a fair assessment. Especially considering one of the lines in the song is “I’ve had an orgasm. A female one.” That’s still not a thing people readily show in media. And, as mentioned above, many a-people still think of “men in dresses” as awful.
Next enters our Emcee/Josh’s Schmigadoon ex-GF (Ariana DeBose). Her voice is purring, and she’s in some sexy cosplay draggish thing. It’s really, really sexy and quirky. But, THAT gets interrupted by Octavius Kratt (Patrick Page), who owns everything in Schmicago. And apparently, he wants to include Melissa in his portfolio.
Dude is creepy and keeps on being creepy until he randomly needs to leave to powder his nose (cocaine?).
We get one more moment with the faboo Emcee as she introduces Jenny Banks. Jenny’s song is about her former lovers being “Kaput,” where she rhymes Munich and eunuch, “rear’s sublime/but now it’s time.” Honestly, it’s a bop. Truly. I’d listen to any of the songs from this episode.
What I liked about the choreography in this number is the way it blends what would be done on stage with some small touches — like cutting back to Jenny’s face over and over — that is inherently cinematic. Musical theatre and musical movies are still strongly interwoven, and leaning into your medium is always great.
After the number, Josh heads off to the restroom. When an … interesting … couple at another table calls Melissa over, she heads off searching for her hubby. Backstage, Josh is looking for a bathroom, but instead of the john, he finds a murder scene. The doctor he is wants to help, but he gets blood all over his hands.
Melissa thinks that she ought to scram. So, they try, but that durn Leprechaun has snapped some important cables in their car. He sings that they have to “create a happy end.” They’re unsure of anything besides their shared hatred of that fracking leprechaun.
They (think they) are too miserable for such a task and so cannot cross the bridge. Sexy Sargeant Rivera arrests Josh for the murder of Elsie Vale (Justine Gera) when the two walk straight back into Schmicago through the fog. Apparently, the Jerklachaun planted evidence — a gun! — in the couple’s car.
Finally, The Narrator comes to close out the episode with a short reprise of “Welcome to Schmicago!”
Whoo! That was GREAT! It was more of everything I loved about Season 1, plus the musicals I actually love. But also, more importantly, it’s much more engrossing to watch couples working together to reach a common goal.
In season 1, we watched Josh and Melissa get in and out of relationships with other people, but it was hard to invest because we knew who was end game. Here, sure, they’ll argue and maybe be separated points, but an actual split is no longer a threat. Now that the plot can be open to other things, the show is stronger.
Here, I’ll call out some of my favorite lines or small pieces from the episode each week.
- Josh: “Maybe it’s one of those places you only visit once.”
- Melissa: “Oh, like soul cycle.”
- Josh: “Hey, you have got the only ‘T’ I wanna ‘A.'”
- Melissa: “Adventure? This is like that season of American Horror Story I gave up on.”
- Melissa: “I’m a doctor, an obstetrician.”
- Kratt: “Of course you are.”
- Melissa: “Really? Here, too?”
- Josh: “I’m so sorry, honey.”
- Schmicago is apparently a “fantastical firago,” which we are told to look up. You’re welcome?
New episodes of Schmigadoon premiere Wednesdays on Apple TV+.
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