TELEVISION: Delightful ‘Schmigadoon!’ returns for season two

Aaron Tveit (left) and Keegan-Michael Key are among the cast of the second season of the Apple TV+ series “Schmigadoon!” (Robert Falconer/Apple TV+ via AP)
Aaron Tveit (left) and Keegan-Michael Key are among the cast of the second season of the Apple TV+ series “Schmigadoon!” (Robert Falconer/Apple TV+ via AP)

NEW YORK — Aaron Tveit has starred in some amazing Broadway shows, but some of the classics have eluded him. So he was delighted to speed his way through many of them in the second season of "Schmigadoon!"

The Apple+ series that gently mocks Broadway musicals cast Tveit in a role that has snatches of "Pippin," "Godspell," "Hair" and "Jesus Christ Superstar" and put him again alongside a who's-who of Broadway veterans.

"It's just a dream," says the Tony Award winner. "It's so much fun and we have a blast doing it. I'm very, very fortunate to have had this come my way when it did. And I just can't believe we keep getting to do it."

"Schmigadoon!" returns this month, tackling the musicals of 1965-1979 with the same two main stars — Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key — and many of the same stage talent that enlivened the first season, like Tveit and Jane Krakowski.

If the first season skewered such splashy musicals as "Brigadoon," "Hello, Dolly!" and "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," the new one has fun with "Chicago," "Pippin," "Cabaret," "Annie" and "Hair" before moving into Stephen Sondheim territory with riffs on "Sweeney Todd."

"I think season two lives on even a smarter and more intricate level," Krakowski says. "I think it's completely accessible to people who are nonmusical. But for people who know musical theater, I think you enjoy it in a whole other level."

The season picks off where the first one ended, with Strong and Key playing a modern-day couple who long to return to the simple, apple-cheeked town of Schmigadoon and, so, go hiking again in the woods hoping to find it.

Instead, they find Schmicago and are met by sneering dancers in bowler hats, fishnets and garters, leather gloves and lederhosen, moving in a very Bob Fosse-like libidinous style while dragging wooden chairs.

"Women brimming with lust/Men that you shouldn't trust/And orphans that don't wanna die," go the first song's lyrics. "Mysteries and magic/Endings that are tragic."

"This is not the kind of musical I want to be in!" Strong's character warns her partner, hoping to turn back. "These musicals don't have happy endings."

Returning alongside Strong, Key, Tveit and Krakowski are Kristin Chenoweth, Dove Cameron, Alan Cumming, Ariana DeBose, Ann Harada and Martin Short. Newcomers include Titus Burgess and Patrick Page.

Cameron, in a bowl cut and dark eyelashes, plays a fun-loving sort of "Cabaret" Sally Bowles, while Burgess is a fabulously sarcastic narrator, like the Leading Player from "Pippin." Cumming, the dandy mayor last season, is now the town's disheveled, bloody-aproned butcher from "Sweeney Todd," and Tveit plays the hunky leader of a bohemian-hippie commune.

"This is a much more ambitious season," Tveit says. "The scale of the show is tremendously larger. And, of course, because we move into this next group of musicals in the '60s and '70, the subject matter of those is a bit darker, a bit more adult."

There are blink-and-you'll-miss-'em physical nods to musical theater giants, like a family portrait shop named after Stephen Schwartz and a Sondheim toy shop. There's even an intersection of Lloyd and Webber streets.

"This is a loving satire. It has to come from a place of love, because if it doesn't, then it just gets ugly," says Cinco Paul, who co-created and co-wrote the series with Ken Daurio, as well as all the songs. "We tease some of these shows and some of the lyrics and some of the tendencies of these writers. But it is all coming from a place of genuine love."

If Tveit got to play many classic theater characters, Krakowski got to play with "Chicago," a show her parents took her to when she was only 8 or 9. In Schmicago, she's a showboating lawyer like Billy Flynn from "Chicago" and gets to say things like, "The law is 10% precedent and 90% wow."

"I think we all go in with such a love of musical theater that it's more of a loving tribute than even parody," Krakowski says. "We've now hit the musicals that were the musicals that inspired me as a young person, just going to see Broadway shows and dreaming of being up there."

He hopes the series will reinforce how thrilling Broadway musicals can be and spark a desire for the audience to dig out old cast albums and fire them up.

"I love whenever I hear about people saying, 'It caused me to dive back into these old shows,'" he says. "It's fun that it's in some ways rekindled an interest in these old shows which are great and amazing and I'm in constant awe of what they did."

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