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 followed weekly on Wednesdays, and we've recapped each. Click through for the third episode, fourth episode, and fifth episode recaps.
But now, on to Episode Six, the final episode in the all-too-short series!
Talaura: Actually, before we get too far into the episode, I want to talk about how the internet is so involved in this series. I know every week we do a recap and point out references, but I’ve always feared we’re just scratching the surface, just sort of hitting key musical moments. As each episode drops on Wednesday, I’ve kind of been doing a little recon work to see if I missed something super obvious (if no one hasn’t already alerted us on Facebook or Twitter, that is). And not only are the fans super into comparing notes, but sometimes creator Cinco Paul or orchestrators David Chase and Doug Besterman will even drop little nuggets on Twitter. And Reddit is a hotbed of information…and conspiracy theories! (Some of you are going too far and just making stuff up! 😉)
Anyway, there are actually a lot of callbacks to the first season that we’ve let slip by. Paul divulged on Twitter that “sour macaroon” from last week’s episode is not only a reference to Jesus Christ Superstar’s “jaded mandarin,” but also a callback to the original theme lyric, “Schmigadoon! Where the sun shines bright from July to June, and the air's as sweet as a macaroon.” The layers!
Logan: We regret the omissions. I’ll flagellate myself later.
Talaura: Now on to the episode!
The moment before: Melissa and Josh tried to deliver Kratt to Dooley so he could get his revenge, but the plan went awry as Kratt whisked Melissa into a car to become his bride whether she likes it or not. To make things worse, Kratt’s henchman, Sgt. Rivera holds Josh at gunpoint so that he can’t save her.
Talaura: Leading Tituss enters, looks at the camera, and throws the Kratt Klub stage lights on, illuminating Ariana DeBose at the center-stage mic with three similarly-clad backup singers behind her. (Ari’s back!) They are looking very Dreamgirls. The song and its choreography are reminiscent of “Hard to Say Goodbye (My Love)” from the Dreams’ farewell show. The song also functions here as it does in Dreamgirls, which is something Logan noted in an earlier episode. It’s not really pushing the action along like a book song, but the diegetic cabaret number is commenting on the action. It’s “Over and Done,” the season, the story. We see Melissa in bridal attire and Josh tied to a chair under Sgt. Rivera’s gunpoint.
Although Dreamgirls is set in the ‘60s, it premiered on Broadway in 1981. But we’re on the last episode, so we're moving forward in time a bit.
Logan: I love that they had Ariana handle the Dreamgirls moment. I mean first of all, thrilled that she’s back at all. She’s been less present this season, and I suspect that has to do with the fact that she, ya know, became a crazy famous Oscar winner between seasons or something like that. But having her as a stand-in for the Dreams, themselves stand-ins for The Supremes, is especially apt. Ariana played founding Supreme Mary Wilson in the original company of Motown The Musical and understudied Diana Ross!
Elsewhere, Melissa is tied to a chair in a ‘20s-’30s wedding gown, and Bobbie is having her sign divorce papers, a marriage license, and a prenup, the latter in case she doesn’t produce Kratt a suitable heir. “No femmes or fatties,” Bobbie explains, referencing the trauma of countless Grindr-using theatre fans worldwide.
Bobbie leaves after getting her $10 payment from Kratt (sheesh, Bobbie. Even Billy Flynn charges $5,000!) and in starts the music for what sounds like a classic second act villain reprise. Just like she shut down the dream ballet last season, Melissa is not letting Kratt get another song. She appeals to Madame Frau, who’s apparently in on Kratt’s scheme (et tu, Ann Harada?). Madame Frau does what she has to to survive. In other words, Melissa is up a creek.
Talaura: Then we flash over to Josh tied to a chair (with a lot of rope!) and Sgt. Rivera keeping watch. Logan, correct me if I’m crazy, but that kind of looks like a furnace behind them. As we know, everyone in Sweeney Todd dies in the furnace room at the end. Foreboding.
Logan: Um, spoiler alert! But yes, you’re right—and not just a furnace room. An underground
bake house furnace room, just like this one. Gosh, it’s almost like they’re parodying Sweeney Todd.
Talaura: So, Rivera is anti-hippie because they get to do whatever they want while schlubs like him do all the work around town.
Logan: I just need to break in and say that Jaime is no schlub, especially in uniform. Shout-out to everyone involved with Schmigadoon! for giving us a full season of Jaime Camil in uniform.
Talaura: Then, the phone rings. Kratt tells Rivera to kill Josh after the wedding. (Guessing Kratt had a phone installed in the furnace room just for moments like this.) Rivera asks if he does it, “will I finally get my own act at the club?” It’s obvious Rivera doesn’t want to kill Josh, but he will do the villain’s bidding. Josh tries to talk Rivera out of it, pleading via parable, a Godspell skill he picked up from Topher, “There once was a faithful servant who served a cruel master…”
Logan: Now we’re at Miss Codwell’s orphanage, where the orphans, no longer in the works to become sausages, are enjoying some food, glorious food. In bursts Dooley, who missed his chance at enacting his revenge on Kratt and now wants blood. He has his eye on offing an orphan or two, but Codwell says Dooley should just wait. As in Sweeney Todd, Dooley isn’t wild about this advice. But unlike in Sweeney Todd, Codwell saves us 45 or so minutes of musical and jumps right to kissing him. As they say, the fastest way to a man’s heart is through his…stomach.
A post-coital Codwell and Dooley are feeling pretty good, though the orphans heard screaming and were concerned there was a monster or an ogre—or even just a man wot was bad and wot might be luring Codwell all unbeknownst into his evil deeds, like—in there. Dooley, cooled down now, feels bad that he saw Josh being dragged off by Sgt. Rivera and didn’t do anything. And that means there’s only one thing for them to do: head to the basement of the power plant, where Rivera took Dooley 20 years previously, to save Josh.
Talaura: Cut to a mirrored scene of Jenny and Topher also canoodling in bed post-canoodle.
Logan: Kids, I meant “canoodle” earlier.
Talaura: The Tribe busts in and tells them that Josh is in trouble. Topher is still a little pissy, but he’s pleased that The Tribe came to him for help. And Josh is still their chum, so “Gas up the Happiness Bus.”
Back in the basement of the power plant, Josh has seemingly stalled his execution with a series of parables, which are now just movie plots: “...But he became friends with all the Goonies and shared in their bounteous fortune.” Rivera has had it with the parables! But then Topher, Jenny, and the Tribe bust in. Jenny puts a daisy in the barrel of Rivera’s gun (referencing a famous Pulitzer-winning photograph from a Vietnam protest). Then Dooley and Codwell bust in, both wielding cleavers.
Logan: Dooley is ready for round two of getting his revenge, this time against Sgt. Rivera, but not without fully enjoying it first. Dooley wants Sgt. Rivera to know who he is and why he’s bringing revenge. Once he reveals that Rivera sent him to prison for the murder of his wife, Daisy, Jenny connects the dots and realizes that Dooley is her father.
Talaura: Daisy Gamble from On a Clear Day You Can See Forever? A past life? Am I reaching? What does Reddit say?
Logan: What does Reddit have that I don’t have?
Remember, Jenny still thinks Dooley killed her mother and wants nothing to do with him. Dooley is so crushed that he very nearly slits his throat with his trusty cleaver—one does what one must when Toby isn’t available—but suddenly Rivera finds his conscience and reveals the truth. Kratt killed Daisy and Rivera framed Dooley. Jenny and Dooley are reunited, and we get the happy ending Sweeney Todd so cruelly denies us. But now it’s time to save Melissa, so everyone takes off to stop the wedding.
Talaura: Which is currently taking place on the stage of Kratt Klub with Leading Tituss officiating. Patrick Page does a growl here that alone is worthy of all the awards. I laughed every time I watched the scene.
Right before Melissa and Kratt are pronounced man and wife, the whole Dooley Tribe busts in (how many times can I say “busts in”). Kratt orders that Josh be taken away. Rivera and Madame Frau, now both inspired to do what’s right, try to stand up to Kratt, but there are still some nameless cops willing to follow orders. The wedding is back on.
Logan: But now Dooley busts in (sorry), and with his cleaver! He charges the stage, but—butterfingers!—trips and sends his cleaver flying. Instead of hitting its original target, the cleaver just lands on Kratt’s coat tail, pinning it to the stage floor without further injury. The ceremony restarts yet again, only for the elegant chandelier to drop from the rafters. Kratt, unable to run away thanks to Dooley’s cleaver, is struck. Turns out those growls Talaura loved were Kratt singing to bring down the chandelier! Yes, just as the final episode of Schmigadoon!’s first season looked forward to the then-upcoming world of Sondheim, it looks like this season’s finale is looking forward to the British invasion of the ‘80s and ‘90s with this less-than-subtle nod to The Phantom of the Opera.
Codwell emerges from backstage, revealing she was the one who saved the day by slicing the rope that hung the chandelier. Hal Prince would be so proud.
Talaura: We discover that Kratt is dead with a little “He’s Kaput” reprise, everyone singing, including our final “I’ll drink to that!" from Karin Konoval.
Leading Tituss enters: “Now that Kratt is dead, things about to change in Schmicago.” He narrates everyone’s happy endings. Frau takes over the club. Rivera gets a club act (in fishnets, corset, full glam makeup, and black curly wig. He is giving major Dr. Frank-N-Furter from The Rocky Horror Show). The Tribe all get jobs in Bobbie’s law firm after working to dismantle Kratt’s monopolies. Topher and Jenny take their leadership and performance skills to the orphange (sock puppet parable shows!), Dooley and Codwell go into the bakery business (now in clean aprons and a brightly colored shop, like the Act II opening of Sweeney). And Josh and Melissa are free to leave Schmicago.
Logan: But wait. Leading Tituss wonders if they really should leave Schmicago. Magic always wears off in real life, but not in Schmicago. This is, of course, pretty analogous to (spoiler alert) the end of Pippin where everyone tries to convince Pippin he should set himself on fire for one final burst of glory. That sounds messed up, but I promise they actually do that at the end of Pippin. I’m suddenly struck with how I don’t think I ever acknowledged that any of the plot points of Sweeney Todd are messed up. Oh well.
“Add ‘em up, kiddoes,” says Bobbie, giving us one last Company reference for the road.
Josh and Melissa aren’t having it. They want “Something Real (Reprise).” (Real talk: I love that this season is ending with several reprises, just like many musicals do. It’s a great way to sell how far—or in some cases how little—the characters have come by the end of Act Two.)
Talaura: Poof! The leprechaun appears.
Logan: And to the underscore from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’s “Pure Imagination!” Did we miss that in the first episode? I’ll flagellate myself later.
Talaura: Turns out Leading Tituss was working for the leprechaun, but now he’s done being a narrator and wants to cozy up with Sgt. Rivera.
Logan: Don’t we all?
Out pops a new narrator, now female and dressed suspiciously like Patina Miller’s newly female Leading Player from the 2013 revival of Pippin.
Talaura: This whole experience has been a test, and Josh and Melissa passed! They can go home, “but what’s important is what you take with you when you go.” Poof! Another leprechaun appears. Turns out this season’s leprechaun and last season’s leprechaun were not, in fact, the same leprechaun.
Talaura: AND they’re brothers! Last season’s is Oscar (ostensibly for Oscar Hammerstein II) and this season’s is Stephen (ostensibly for Stephen Sondheim, Hammerstein’s protégé). They launch the final song, a sweet, ukulele-strummed, full-cast sing-along that has tears just dripping down my face. “Happy endings don’t exist, but here’s a pearl you may have missed. Every day can be a happy beginning.” Mr. Paul is just as adept at sincerity as he is at parody. This song is special.
Logan: Josh and Melissa cross through the theatrical haze fog and emerge colorful, happy, and content in a dreary, almost black-and-white New York City. We see Melissa, pregnant at last and finally getting her own sonogram. Back outside, the world around them starts to turn to color as they walk down the street. I’ve a feeling they’re not in Schmicago anymore.
Talaura: The final shot of Schmicago references the final shot of the Godspell film. Melissa and Josh are on an empty block and turn the corner, disappearing into the crowd of New York City street. And the final Easter Egg is writer Cinco Paul in that crowd.
Logan: I continue to be so happy this series exists. There is nothing better than nerding out over Broadway. Just like last season, Cinco and his entire team are proving they're such experts at lampooning the genre while somehow also showing how much they love it. I said at the beginning I was curious to see how this season would go since the musicals of this era are so much less homogenous than Golden Age shows, and that definitely showed in this season. What I wasn’t expecting is how hilarious it would be leaning into that. I mean, who would ever have guessed going into this season that it would give us a mash-up of, “A Little Priest” and “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile?” Genius!
Talaura: I was also just thinking earlier about all the weird time periods and how it's just perfectly reasonable here. I wasn't sure if it was my willing suspension or if it actually made sense. But I'll go with your leaning-in theory. So, of course, we want a third season. And there's plenty of places to go with it. Logan has already mentioned the British Invasion musicals. And, we assume there will be a child (so we could see an Eponine/Cosette thing happening maybe?). When people throw around third season ideas, we hear a lot of "Les Schmiz." But I've been saying all season that they've set up a pattern of location with the titles, so I'm not sure where the third season will actually go...Schminto the Woods? to the Schmopera? But wherever/whatever, we sure are hopeful that it happens!!