Join in the cosmic cantata, and take a trip to Schmicago!
On Schmigadoon! Season 2 Episode 3, Josh gets groovy with the hippies, Melissa meets the residents of Quick Street, and Bobby razzle-dazzles the courtroom.
It’s so consistently impressive how much they cram into 30 minutes and still come up with a coherent narrative.
Cinco Paul’s cleverness with lyrics comes into play in every song here. He’s got internal rhymes up the shoobie-doobie, and the double meaning of “The Worst Brats In Town” — sausages and children — is just too good.
On Quick Street, we have Alan Cumming and Kristin Chenoweth as Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett… er, Dooley Blight and Miss Codwell, who is also Miss Hannigan from Annie.
Cumming leans into the melodrama of Dooley Blight, evoking more sympathy than menace. Vocally, both of them are at ease with the weird intricacies of the Sondheimesque score.
These are not the most singable songs in the show, but Chenoweth proves once again that she knows her way around tongue-twisting lyrics and makes every one of them understandable.
I’m just a woman with needs of me own/Who’d like to do some misdeeds of me own.
Blight comes with the typical Sweeney baggage — his wife was taken by an evil man (who Melissa rightly deduced was Kratt), and his daughter is now a performer (who Melissa, again, figured out was Jenny).
Dooley being Jenny’s father helps tie the Cabaret and Sweeney plots together, with Jenny as his daughter means there is plenty of unfinished business.
We’re only three episodes in; there’s no way Melissa and Josh are leaving Schmicago at this point!
The little details, such as the family photo of them all with cleavers and the screaming door, are part of what makes this show so rewatchable.
Cecily Strong as Melissa is so darn likable. She’s unassuming and good-natured but still has a healthy amount of snark. You can see the tenderness she feels for Mayor Menlove in her interactions with Dooley.
Imagine if Sweeney Todd had a kind, impartial, rational person to talk him through his issues. Things might have worked out differently!
The Josh and Melissa relationship is charming, too. Key and Strong have great chemistry and play within their married couple dynamic well. There is still conflict in their life, but they face it together instead of letting it drive them apart.
Did anyone else notice that lambs were mentioned frequently in the lyrics? Josh was the “lamb without a flock,” the orphans were referred to as lambs, and Dooley referred to his wife and daughter as being led like “lambs to the slaughter.”
Repeated metaphoric imagery usually means something. Could it just be the Jesus theme, or maybe there will be some sort of sacrifice?
Let’s just say the “Lamb” parable is ridiculously accurate to the world of Godspell. I deeply identified with Josh during that scene.
(Sorry, I’m squarely in the Jesus Christ Superstar camp when it comes to ’70s Jesusicals. Godspell’s strength is in its gorgeous songs, not its script).
“Gotta Get Naked” is fantastic. It’s probably the funniest number so far. It borrows from a few strands of Hair, most notably “Good Morning Starshine.”
Flowers don’t wear pants, so why should we?
Christopher Gattelli’s hippie choreography is spot on. This is how Broadway hippies dance, leaping effortlessly like gazelles with a loose playfulness.
Josh being so uncomfortable and then going into doctor mode at the end made it that much funnier.
I’m seeing a lot of moles I’m worried about.
Alex, Marisa, and Michael (the actors, not the characters) know exactly what kind of show they are in, and their commitment to the bit is outstanding.
Julie Klausner wrote a terrific script, and then Jane Krakowski made every one of her lines pop. That’s the joy of Bobby.
“Bells and Whistles” combines “Razzle Dazzle” and “Roxie” from Chicago and sprinkles in “Getting Married Today” from Company for good measure. (It’s also reminiscent of “Show Off” from The Drowsy Chaperone).
Just give Jane Krakowski her long-deserved Emmy now, please. She’s a human miracle. My jaw was on the floor the whole time.
This is such an 11 o’clock number. It arrives with only minutes remaining. There are LITERAL bells and whistles. The stenographer types during the tap break! There’s even human ventriloquism as in “We Both Reached For The Gun.”
What’s mind-boggling is that this episode was already great, and then Jane Krakowski comes in with her trapeze and sparklers and elevates it to incredible.
Bells and whistles are all you need/Plus a comprehensive knowledge of the law.
It’s also telling that Bobby is actually astute and intelligent. She lays out the entire case for Josh’s innocence in her patter sequence.
This could also be read as a subtle commentary on what a beautiful woman needs to do to be heard. She has to be smart but can’t be smarter than the men, so she plays up the cute, ditzy angle for maximum effect.
There’s very little I can’t do, besides bore people or look bad in literally any kind of suit.
Women often have to downplay their intelligence to get their point across. She has to be flawless and impressive at every turn.
Some people help dismantle systems of oppression, and some choose to play within them.
“Bells and Whistles” also serves as a nice metaphor for Schmigadoon! as a whole.
It’s got the show-stopping “wow” factor, and it’s impressively executed, but it’s also got a lot of careful, detailed thought and understanding behind it about what it needs to achieve.
It doesn’t even end there. We still manage to get some of Patrick Page’s glorious basso profundo in “Two Birds With One Stone” (which is basically “This Jesus Must Die,” “Pilate and Christ,” and other incorporated themes from Jesus Christ Superstar).
The whipping is a direct reference to Judge Turpin from Sweeney Todd, the primary source of inspiration for Octavius Kratt — Dooley Blight’s story confirms it.
Tituss Burgess continues to be the king of line delivery. How does he make a line like “I believe she goes by Gimble” hilarious?
And nobody breaks a fourth wall like Burgess (you’ve got some competition, Phoebe Waller-Bridge). Every glance at the camera invites us in on the jokes. This is what he was made for.
The running “I’ll drink to that!” gag is still funny. I have suspicions about whether it will have a payoff, but we’ll see. I’ll drink to you, Karin Konoval!
No sign of Dove Cameron, Ann Harada, Jamie Camil, or Ariana DeBose in this episode. This is probably Schmigadoon! Season 2‘s only real weakness.
The disparity of the musicals on display means that some episodes must leave characters out to cover all the ground (from Chicago to Berlin to London to New York).
There wasn’t much of Chenoweth or Cumming in the first two episodes, so now it’s their time to shine.
Easter Eggs/Fun Facts
All the shopfronts reference a different musical theatre composer: Sondheim’s, Schwartz, Ebb & Co, Kander Absinthe Cafe, and Herman’s.
Alan Cumming won a Tony for playing the Emcee in Cabaret.
The “Rizzo, Cha Cha, Doody, Zuko, and Kenickie” lines in “Gotta Get Naked” are all names of characters from the 1972 musical Grease.
Alex Gullason, who plays hippie Alex, played Sally Bowles in a recent production of Cabaret in Vancouver, Canada. Catriona Murphy, who appears in the courtroom scene and also appeared in Schmigadoon! Season 1 played Fraulein Schneider in the same production.
Tituss Burgess and Alan Cumming have both played Rooster in Annie. Burgess’s Lily St. Regis was originally going to be Jane Krakowski, who had to drop out due to COVID and was replaced by Megan Hilty. Cumming’s Lily was none other than Kristin Chenoweth.
“What’s in the bread?” is a reference to a line from “The Last Supper” in Jesus Christ Superstar.
Marisa’s line “Good morning, Josh-shine” is a play on “Good Morning Starshine” from Hair.
“Quick” is a synonym of “fleet,” making Quick Street the stand-in for Sweeney Todd’s Fleet Street.
Topher paints a happy face on Josh, a reference (probably) to the song “Put On A Happy Face” from Bye Bye Birdie.
The universe believes in you!
Alex & Marisa
If we could give shows a higher than five stars rating, I absolutely would. This is at the high end of the highest rating.
Schmigadoon/Schmicago nails every aspect of its conceit, so you know what you’re getting when you go in, but it still consistently exceeds expectations.
What did you think of this episode? What was your favorite number? Did you spot any musical references we missed?
Let us know in the comments!
Mary Littlejohn Mary Littlejohn is a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She loves television, cinema, and theatre (especially musicals!), particularly when it champions inclusivity, diversity, and social justice. Follow her on Twitter.