Wildly inventive new ‘Schmigadoon!’ season spoofs ‘Cabaret,’ ‘Hair’ and all that jazz

Thoroughly entertaining Apple TV+ show sweeps Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key into the darker, more cynical musicals of the ’60s and ’70s.

SHARE Wildly inventive new ‘Schmigadoon!’ season spoofs ‘Cabaret,’ ‘Hair’ and all that jazz
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Josh (Keegan-Michael Key) and Melissa (Cecily Strong) visit a new musical comedy world, this one built around edgier shows of the 1960s and ’70s, in Season 2 of “Schmigadoon.”

Apple TV+

They should stage “Schmigadoon!” on Broadway, for real.

Each of the first two seasons of this wildly inventive, thoroughly entertaining, beautifully cast and utterly infectious Apple TV+ series from Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio is a pitch-perfect salute/satire of some of the most famous musicals of the 20th century, and each could be distilled into a full-length Broadway production. The premise is that great, the songs are that memorable.

Season 1 of “Schmigadoon!” saw New York doctors Melissa (Cecily Strong) and Josh (Keegan-Michael Key) trapped in a Golden Age-era musical with clear overtones of “Brigadoon,” “Oklahoma!,” “Carousel” and “The Music Man,” among others. Some two years later, Melissa and Josh are back home, frustrated because they’ve been unable to conceive and in a bit of a funk when they decide to reinvigorate with a return to Schmigadoon.

‘Schmigadoon’ Season 2

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Two episodes available now on Apple TV+, with a new episode premiering each Wednesday through May 3.

Ah, but this time around, they find themselves in the town of “Schmicago” and the darker, more cynical and sometimes more politically charged era of 1960s and 1970s works such as “Cabaret,” “Hair,” “Sweeney Todd,” “A Chorus Line,” “Annie,” “Sweet Charity” and of course, “Chicago.” The result is an edgier, more risqué, splashier and even more involving adventure for Melissa and Josh, who no longer question how they’re plunged into this parallel universe and throw themselves into the action feet first—even though they’re now in a storytelling world where happy endings are few and far between.

Many of the enormously talented cast members from Season 1 return, but in different roles. (If Josh or Melissa refer to any of them by their character names from Schmigadoon, they’re truly puzzled. Who are you talking about?) This time around, Kristin Chenoweth plays a character who is a combo platter of elements from Mrs. Lovett from “Sweeney Todd” and Miss Hannigan from “Annie”; Dove Cameron does a spot-on take of Sally Bowles from “Cabaret,” while the brilliant Ariana DeBose will remind you of the Emcee from that same musical. The always terrific Jane Krakowski is an opportunistic defense attorney named Bobbie Flanagan, in a tribute to Billy Flynn from “Chicago”; the great Alan Cumming is Dooley Finn, a close cousin to Sweeney Todd, and Aaron Tveit is marvelous as the commune leader Topher, who is most closely modeled after Berger from “Hair.” (New cast members Titus Burgess as the Narrator and Patrick Page as the truly chilling, basso profundo-voiced villain also shine.)

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Among the stage luminaries on “Schmigadoon” is Kristin Chenoweth, as a character reminiscent of “Sweeney Todd” and “Annie.”

Apple TV+

“Schmigadoon!” often reminds me of the works of Christopher Guest and the IFC series “Documentary Now!” in that it sends up the genre but does so with such a good ear and with such true affection that it’s almost like the real thing. We see dance routines that immediately conjure up visions of Twyla Tharp’s or Bob Fosse’s choreography, and soak in production numbers that expertly capture the essence of “Cabaret” or “Chicago.”

There are times when there’s so much talent and such lavish spectacle onscreen, our two leads are almost lost along the way—but Strong and Key are masters of the reaction shot and very generous co-stars, and when they get their moments, they absolutely sparkle. In the name of “Wicked,” “In the Heights,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Avenue Q,” “The Book of Mormon” and “Hamilton,” here’s hoping for a Season 3 of “Schmigadoon!”

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