Melissa and Josh have found true love… but are they happy? That’s the question hanging over their heads in Schmigadoon!‘s Season 2 premiere, which picks up after a considerable time jump and shows Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key‘s characters finding it rather difficult to readjust to life in the real world.
“They go through all these milestones in life — they’re married, they buy a house in Connecticut, they’re successful in their careers — but there are difficulties that you inevitably face,” Strong tells TVLine. “Those build up, and you lose confidence.”
Alas, Melissa and Josh are in something of a rut and desperate to escape it. They also have a hankering for some corn pudding.
“They know they have Schmigadoon, which is this magic place,” Strong says. “It’s a quick fix,” if not a permanent fix, and they decide to go back. But they quickly discover you “can never go back,” and instead wind up in Schmicago, a grittier town inspired by 1960s and ’70s musicals, including Cabaret, Chicago, Hair and Sweeney Todd, just to name a few. Schmicago is populated by familiar faces — fellow returnees include Ariana DeBose, Dove Cameron, Jaime Camil, Kristin Chenoweth, Alan Cumming, Ann Harada, Jane Krakowski and Aaron Tveit — but no one is playing the same character they inhabited in Season 1. And in another twist that sets Season 2 apart from Season 1, it’s Josh, not Melissa, who’s quick to embrace their new surroundings. But his tune changes relatively fast, when he’s suddenly the prime suspect in a muuuurder.
“It’s a rude awakening for Josh because he thinks he’s going to enjoy this place,” Key tells us. “He’s the one who has to convince Melissa, ‘Let’s just stay for a day, maybe we’ll have fun,’ and then he winds up in prison, on death row.”
So, what other changes are in store for Schmigadoon! Season 2? Keep scrolling to see what series co-creator Cinco Paul has to say about the musical satire’s six-episode encore…
When Apple first greenlit Schmigadoon! Season 1, the order was for eight episodes. It was eventually pared down to six, but not before eight scripts had been written. Alas, viewers might have felt a rush to the finish line the first time around.
But with Season 2, Paul knew that he was working with a six-episode order from the get-go. As a result, “this has a plot that moves like a machine,” he tells TVLine. “Season 1 was a little looser, more romcom-y. This is a little more Sweeney Todd-esque, so you really have to plot it carefully. The first couple weeks in the writers’ room, that’s all we were doing — figuring out that this leads to this, and this leads to that.”
THE USE OF A NARRATOR
Season 2 installs Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt‘s Tituss Burgess as the narrator — a role inspired by The Leading Player from 1972’s Pippin. Early on, Melissa cracks that ’60s and ’70s musicals relied on a narrator in lieu of story, “which is maybe a little bit unfair,” Paul says, “although a lot of the shows in that era do have story problems.” But Burgess’ role, he says, is “invaluable,” and keeps the story from veering off track.
“His commentary on the characters and the choices they make is always funny, and anytime he looks directly to the camera, I just love it,” the EP adds. “I guess you could say I came around to the value of a narrator to help you move through things. It’s a little bit of a crutch, but if you use it right, it’s very effective.”
SUPPORTING CAST TAKES CENTER STAGE
Whereas Cecily Strong and/or Keegan-Michael Key were in virtually every scene in Season 1, Season 2 has entire storylines where Melissa and Josh are barely present. That was one of Paul’s goals with this sophomore effort — to flesh out secondary and tertiary characters and make them feel like they could exist even if Melissa and Josh are not interacting with them.
“The [musicals] got more complex and the characters got more real in ’60s and ’70s, so it behooved us to do the same thing with our characters,” he says. “We really wanted the characters to be real, and their trauma to be real, and their struggles to be real. We didn’t want them to be cutout characters, and certainly none of the actors wanted that either, so it was really important that they could stand on their own.
“A question I had early on was, ‘Will the audience go along for a scene that’s just between Dove Cameron’s character and Aaron Tveit’s character? Will they go along for that ride?'” In order to achieve this, Paul set a rule for any such scene: “It was important that [any action] be something that Josh and Melissa made happen,” he explains. “If they were the force behind [something happening between two of our supporting characters], then it was fine to go away from them for a little while and see what they’ve unleashed on this world.”
What follows is a breakdown of who each returning cast member is playing in Season 2…
SEASON 1 ROLE: Emma Tate (inspired by The Music Man‘s Marian Paroo)
SEASON 2 ROLE: Emcee (inspired by Cabaret‘s Emcee)
SEASON 1 ROLE: Betsy McDonough (inspired by Oklahoma!‘s Ado Annie)
SEASON 2 ROLE: Jenny Banks (inspired by Cabaret‘s Sally Bowles)
SEASON 1 ROLE: Jorge Lopez (inspired by The Sound of Music‘s Captain von Trapp)
SEASON 2 ROLE: Sergeant Rivera
SEASON 1 ROLE: Mildred Layton (inspired by The Music Man‘s Mrs. Shinn)
SEASON 2 ROLE: Miss Caldwell (inspired by Sweeney Todd‘s Mrs. Lovett and Annie‘s Miss Hannigan)
SEASON 1 ROLE: Aloysius Menlove
SEASON 2 ROLE: Dooley Flint (inspired by Sweeney Todd‘s title character)
SEASON 1 ROLE: Florence Menlove
SEASON 2 ROLE: Madam Frau (inspired by Cabaret‘s Fräulein Schneider)
SEASON 1 ROLE: Gabriele Von Blerkom aka “Blerky” (inspired by The Sound of Music‘s Baroness)
SEASON 2 ROLE: Bobby Flanagan (inspired by Chicago‘s Billy Flynn)
SEASON 1 ROLE: Danny Bailey (inspired by Carousel‘s Billy Bigelow)
SEASON 2 ROLE: Topher (inspired by the main characters in Pippin, Godspell and Hair)
Schmigadoon! Season 2 premieres Wednesday, April 5 on Apple TV+.