Welcome to Schmicago, the fictional city at the center of the second season of Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio’s musical comedy TV series Schmigadoon! The first season, which premiered in the summer of 2022 on Apple TV+, followed a modern couple, Josh and Melissa (played by Keegan-Michael Keyand Cecily Strong), who have grown complacent in their relationship. On a couple’s retreat in the woods, they stumble upon the magical town of Schmigadoon as it appears from the fog (Like Brigadoon, get it?). They are trapped there, inside a world of Golden Age musicals, and cannot escape until they find true love.
In season two, Josh and Melissa are trapped in Schmicago, inspired by the grittier and darker musicals of the mid-'60s and '70s. Our dynamic duo is tasked with finding a happy ending, which could be a tall order when dealing with plots inspired by such shows as Sweeney Todd, Cabaret, and Jesus Christ Superstar.
Playbill is back to walk you through all of the references from every episode of Schmigadoon!'s second season, which debuted with a double episode drop April 5—get caught up with the recap of those episodes here. Episodes follow weekly on Wednesdays, with our recap of the third and fourth episodes here and here.
But now, on to Episode Five!
The moment before: Love is in the air in Schmicago. Things are getting physical between Topher and Jenny after Josh and Melissa set them up. Miss Codwell and Dooley had a successful date, and now they’re over the moon that they can use Miss Codwell’s dreaded orphans as Dooley’s new meat supply. Josh and Melissa, unaware of that last part, are pretty sure they’ve achieved that happy ending they’re after.
Episode 5: Famous as Hell
Talaura: This format of a narrator telling us “last week in Schmicago” is very helpful. Codwell is fattening up her orfans (sic), Dooley is sharpening his cleaver, Topher and Jenny (now hippiefied) are digging each other, the Tribe is feeling ignored, and Kratt is up to no good.
Josh walks Melissa to the stage door of the Kratt Klub; he hasn’t seen her perform yet and they aren’t leaving town until he does! She meets Madame Frau backstage (was that Caroline the Cow in the hallway?), who informs her that Jenny hasn’t shown up, so Melissa will take the matinee solo spot.
Logan: I think that was a horse in the hallway. And Gypsy is firmly golden age, arguably the final golden age musical. But then there’s that moment where Melissa realizes she can be the star of the show, while looking at herself in the mirror—it was giving me some “I’m a pretty girl, Momma” vibes, so who can tell. It is Sondheim, after all.
Talaura: And we have had some Mama Rose in the orchestrations in Episode 1, so Gypsy is maybe a bridge between the two worlds.
So, Melissa steps out of the chorus line for the solo “It’s My Turn Now,” which feels very much like Sally Bowles’ “Maybe This Time.”
Logan: This one didn’t seem as direct a parody as a lot of the earlier songs this season, but the general theme of the Cabaret tune is there, and the key change into the final verse is a near-direct lift.
Talaura: And the costuming is giving a nod to the first time Fanny Brice steps out of the chorus in Funny Girl, although her song “I’d Rather Be Blue” is dissimilar. It’s definitely a tropey moment, when the chorine becomes the diva.
Logan: With Melissa a big hit, Josh leaves the Kratt Klub and runs into the hippies. With Topher off ostensibly enjoying Jenny, the group needs some new leadership. One of the hippies has hurt their foot, and as a doctor, Josh is well equipped to fix that up. To the hippies, it’s a miracle—he healed the lame! Maybe Josh should be the new leader!
Leading Tituss (yes, I’m stealing that, Talaura) arrives to remind us that trouble may be ahead now that both Melissa and Josh have tasted the power of fame. This song, “Fame,” is harkening back to “Heaven On Their Minds” from Jesus Christ Superstar, letting Tituss slip into the role of Judas being angsty about the effects of fame on Josh and Melissa rather than on Jesus. We also get some of “Simon Zealotes”—the hippies’ “Hey, Hey, Josh! Oh, my Gosh” is the zealotes’ “Christ, you know I love you” chant. The final “famous is hell” is “This Jesus Must Die,” too.
Talaura: The wail on “Melissa” and “Josh” (like “Jeeee-sus!”) did me in. And, it’s fair to say we both LOL’d at “That was a rhetorical question.” Also fair to say that “Heaven on Their Minds” has a few rhetorical questions, as well.
We’re getting some storytelling in this sequence, too, about how everyone in the cast is feeling about what’s going on here, each using their own song themes. Jenny is unhappy with Melissa taking the lead; she mutters “We’ve gone kaput” as we see Melissa doing the “Mein Herr” chair-ography. Topher doesn’t like being replaced (he says something about Josh stealing his doorway. I don’t recall that being an early lyric, but Topher can be random…or I missed it**). Meanwhile, Codwell wonders if her orphans are “good enough to eat” yet, while Dooley refrains “kill them all” and Kratt sings, “two birds with one stone.” The number ends in an impressive seven-part counterpoint (think the “Tonight” quintet from West Side Story or “Johanna (Reprise)” from Sweeney).
**Talaura Edit: So, I was totally called out on Twitter: "He had a whole song about it." And to that I say, "Oooohhhh, yeaaaaahhhh." I honestly don't know where my head was...I think I was trying to remember a specific lyric, but this is a callback to Topher's first song "Doorway to Where." And, boy, do I feel dumb! Carry on!
That number concludes and we see Melissa (in her '60s street clothes) and Josh (in his new leading hippie clothes) start counting their happy endings and think everything might be in good shape, except for Kratt. Topher and Jenny are in love. Codwell and Dooley are in love. And they’re happy. She feels strong and gorgeous as a leading lady. And as leader of The Tribe, Josh is even beginning to enjoy touching. Surely the leprechaun would say they can leave…but they decide to stay a little longer. Fame! Baby, remember their names!
Logan: This pair keeps thinking they’ve reached the ending. Don’t they know it won’t be over until we get a satisfying closing number?!
So Josh and Melissa walk into Jenny’s apartment, and—surprise! Topher and Jenny are there, and they’re pissed. Right off the bat, we’re getting the discordant instrumental transition Andrew Lloyd Webber used to be particularly fond of in his rock opera days, and this one is straight out of “Damned For All Time.” I’m also getting some notes of “Last Supper” in this musical fight about betrayal. This episode really is kind of a JCS megamix, and I’m not mad about it!
Talaura: Definitely a Judas/Jesus face-off here, with Topher turning Judas’ lyric of, “Like a jaded, faded, faded, jaded, jaded mandarin” into, “Like a sour macaroon, a sour macaroon. A sour, dour, almond flour, sour macaroon.” Josh is confused. We all are. (But I think we all were with JCS there, too.)
Talaura: Anyway. Topher and Jenny kick Josh and Melissa out. So they head to Miss Codwell’s looking for a place to stay, who happily has a place for them. There’s a weirdly sweet moment where the orphans, now being fed, give Miss Codwell a pink ribbon and she’s genuinely touched by the gesture. Then the couple hops over to see Dooley and he’s sharpening ALL THE KNIVES and there’s a huge new meat grinder.
Later that evening, crammed into a child-sized bed, Melissa and Josh start to think that something is up. They’re off to investigate at the butcher shop where they discover Dooley’s math equating the size of an orphan to the number of sausages he/she will produce. Just as they figure it all out, Dooley and Codwell surprise them (standing in the doorframe looking very much like a Sweeney promo photo).
Logan: Turns out Dooley and Codwell don’t murder people—just orphans. Josh realizes Dooley is projecting his rage for Kratt onto the orphans—much like Sweeney deciding “they all deserve to die” after his first attempt at getting Judge Turpin is thwarted. Snd so they decide the solution to this pickle is to deliver Kratt to Dooley to carry out a death sentence. Are they qualified to decide Kratt deserves to die? Josh says yes! They try asking Leading Tituss for some advice, but he’s on break—and thus we are all thankful to the Actors’ Equity Association for contractually mandated union breaks.
Talaura: Miss Codwell is now wearing the pink ribbon in her hair and she touches it and glances away at one point in the conversation about murdering orphans. She’s softening. That change of heart for the orphans mirrors Lovett’s affection for Toby that causes a few wrinkles in the second act of Sweeney.
Logan: Back at the Kratt Klub, some very creepy twins are performing. I don’t have a musical theatre reference for this one. They both give me What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? vibes, particularly with the white face paint and the hearts on the cheek. And of course, there’s some Baby/Dainty June Gypsy crossover there. But mostly I think they’re just creepy.
Talaura: If you watch all the way to the credits, they are the Bernstein Sisters, which may be a hat tip to Leonard. But I have no idea what they’re doing on that stage. It’s very much NOT the sister act that I imagined Velma Kelly doing.
So, Officer Jaime sits down to commiserate with Madame Frau about how their choices aren’t panning out. Cue a Bacharach beat and we’re in Promises, Promises territory with the song “There’s Always a Twist.” That's certainly a switch, mood-wise. The constantly changing meter is kind of giving me, “You’ll Think of Someone.” He even says something about broken promises in the lines leading up to the song. This is a really nice moment for these two who have both taken more supporting roles this season, each a strong contrast from the types they played in Season 1. It’s fun to see Camil as a sympathetic lackey and Harada as…well…German.
Logan: I loved the three backup girls in the ‘60s mod dresses, I assume a nod to the three secretary dancers that lead “Turkey Lurkey Time” in Promises. They also give us an on-screen source for that Bacharach-style backup singing, which Promises achieved originally with pit singers. I miss pit singers.
Talaura: Melissa is tasked with getting Kratt to her dressing room so Dooley can murder him. It’s the only way! (Oh, yeah. We never said, there are telephones at the tables like the Kit Kat Klub.) She calls him to flirt, then joins him at his table (some very fun physical comedy from Strong here). She has something special for him in her dressing room and who cares about Josh. Page gave us another LOL moment as he mutters, “I’m incapable of feeling remorse.”
I don't know why, but I thought we were headed towards a, “You are woman/I am Man” scene from Funny Girl. But just as Melissa starts to lead Kratt to her dressing room, he steals her away into the alley! Kratt kidnaps Melissa while Officer Jaime holds Josh at gunpoint. Dooley, who was hiding in the wardrobe, loses his chance at revenge just like Sweeney.
Kratt is going to make Melissa marry him, or Josh dies. There's always a twist! Pan to Leading Tituss driving the kidnap kar, giving a sinister look to the camera. That guy is a menace. BLACKOUT.
See you next week for the final episode. (Boo!)