Shucked: Peeling Back Broadway's Corniest Show
The neon lights of Broadway have seen countless shows that have made audiences laugh, cry, and everything in between, but none quite like Shucked. This unique musical comedy, with its husk of humor and kernel of truth, has carved its own niche in the landscape of Broadway shows. This musical is a cornucopia of hilarity, weaving together a plot that is as outrageous as it is endearing. Set against the simple backdrop of Cobb County, a rustic, isolated town, we are introduced to the love-struck duo, Maizy and Beau. When their long-awaited nuptials are put on hold due to a corn blight, the town's future hangs in the balance.
The reason why Shucked is considered one of Broadway's funniest shows to date lies in its ingenious blend of corny humor, heartwarming narrative, and unforgettable musical numbers. It's a show that doesn't take itself too seriously, and yet, it manages to strike a chord with audiences by drawing upon universally relatable themes of acceptance, growth, and the sheer absurdity of life. The characters are larger-than-life, the dialogue is witty and riddled with puns, and the overall tone of the show is refreshingly self-aware. But that's precisely what makes Shucked such a standout – it's unapologetically goofy and relentlessly entertaining. It's a testament to the fact that sometimes, the most memorable Broadway shows are those that dare to be different, push the boundaries of convention, and find humor in the unlikeliest of places.
Origin and Background of Shucked
Shucked was born from the unique minds of Robert Horn and Jack O’Brien. The inspiration behind the show came from a CBS variety show Hee Haw and vaudeville. This sparked the idea for a Broadway show that would pay homage to the small towns, the dreamers, and the eccentric, endearing characters that make America what it is.
Horn and O’Brien, with their combined experience in comedy writing and musical theatre, envisioned Shucked as a show that would not only entertain but also touch hearts and provide many comedic moments. They wanted to inspire the viewers to treat those who are different from them with compassion and to think about how they might “heal the world a little.”
The development and writing process of Shucked was a labor of love that spanned nearly twelve years. Each character, line of dialogue, and musical number was meticulously crafted to create a show that was as funny as it was soulful.
In a heartfelt homage to his late twin sister, Nancy, Robert Horn crafted the narrative. Nancy's untimely passing due to pancreatic cancer during the onset of COVID-19 deeply impacted Horn. Their shared discussions about cultural differences greatly influenced his work. Horn, despite not being a religious person, openly admits that while penning the script, he felt guided by Nancy's spirit. Hence, every performance of Shucked serves as a tribute, keeping Nancy's spirit alive on the Broadway stage.
The Plot of Shucked
Broadway's kitschiest spectacle, Shucked, follows Maizy and Beau as they try to save their small farming town from a corn blight. Taking advice from her audacious cousin, Lulu, a local moonshine brewer, Maizy embarks on a journey far from the cornfields of her home. Her path leads her to the sunny beaches of Tampa, Florida, and into the company of Gordy Jackson, a charming yet dubious character. This slick hustler claims to have the solution to their corn crisis while harboring ulterior motives to exploit Cobb County's potential riches to clear his own debts. Buckle up for a roller-coaster of emotions, humor, and corny Broadway charisma with Shucked.
The show explores themes that resonate with a wide range of audiences. Horn hopes that the audience not only leaves with a laughter-filled heart but also with a fresh perspective on life. The creators firmly believe in the power of theatre to bring about healing, even if it's just a little, making the world a happier place.
The Characters and Cast
Playing the role of Beau, the steadfast Midwesterner, is Andrew Durand. Durand is no stranger to Broadway, having performed in productions like Ink, Head Over Heels, War Horse, and Spring Awakening. Caroline Innerbichler, who recently impressed audiences as Anna in the national tour of Frozen, embodies Maizy's character. Her previous credits span national tours and performances at the Guthrie Theater and the Chanhassen Dinner Theaters, demonstrating her versatility as an actress. Ashley D. Kelley, known for her National Tour performance in The Play That Goes Wrong and Off-Broadway's role in Eve’s Song, plays the role of Storyteller 1, and Storyteller 2 for the evening is Grey Henson, who originated the role of Damian in Mean Girls on Broadway, earning a nomination for a 2018 TonyⓇ Award for Best Actor in a featured Role in a Musical. John Behlmann breathes life into Gordy, the smooth-talking con man from Florida. Behlmann's Broadway credits include a notable performance in Tootsie, earning him an Outer Critics Circle nomination, and other significant roles in Significant Other.
The character Lulu, portrayed by 2023 Tony®-winner Alex Newell, is a true crowd-pleaser. Newell's show-stopping performance of "Independently Owned" in Act I is a powerful anthem, a resounding declaration of her independence. This song serves as a warning to Gordy, a deceitful character pretending to assist Cobb County, asserting that she doesn't require a man's help. Lulu’s powerful delivery often results in a rare mid-show standing ovation; her performance is not just memorable, it’s a force of nature, shaking the rafters and leaving an unforgettable mark on the audience.
What’s Special About The Production
Shucked brings Broadway a breath of fresh air with a unique blend of country pop and traditional show tunes. The production's set design, vividly illustrating an Americana landscape, is instrumental in enhancing the narrative. Every element is carefully designed to transport audiences from the rural Midwestern community of Cobb County to the city streets of Tampa. It's a visual love letter to rural life, with cornfields, barns, and even the occasional banjo, each element meticulously designed to transport the audience into the heart of the story.
The costume design is equally crucial in storytelling. Rooted in reality, the costumes reflect the characters' personalities and their rural environment, adding depth to the narrative. From plaid shirts to cowboy boots, the wardrobe is a visual manifestation of the characters' lives and experiences.
The musical score, penned by Shane McAnally and Brandy Clark, renowned for chart-topping country hits such as Sam Hunt's “Body Like a Back Road,” masterfully intertwines contemporary country pop with conventional show tunes. The musical numbers, with their twangy pronunciations and banjo accompaniments, offer a refreshing twist to the traditional Broadway soundscape. Meanwhile, the choreography by award-winning choreographer Sarah O’Gleby, adds to this high-energy celebration of Broadway and country dance styles. The music and choreography of Shucked work hand in hand to create a show that is as visually stunning as it is aurally delightful.
Reviews and Reception
Shucked has been met with widespread acclaim from critics and audiences alike. Critics have lauded its originality, humor, and hopeful sentiment. Huffpost hailed it as "the year’s surprise hit," while The Guardian praised the cast’s comedic timing as ”near universally excellent."
Audience reaction to Shucked has been overwhelmingly positive. The show has been praised for its infectious energy, memorable characters, and its ability to make audiences both laugh out loud and shed a tear.
In terms of awards and recognitions, Shucked has reaped a bountiful harvest. It bagged several nominations in the Tony Awards®, including Best Musical, Best Original Score, and Best Direction. Alex Newell’s performance as Lulu earned them the coveted Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical award. The show also won two Drama Desk Awards. The accolades it has garnered are a confirmation to its quality and its unique place in the landscape of Broadway shows. It proves that sometimes, the most unlikely stories can make for the most entertaining and heartwarming theatre.
While this blog offers an in-depth look at the corny charm of Shucked, there's really no substitute for experiencing the show for yourself. The laughter, the music, the unforgettable characters - these are things best savored live beneath the bright lights of Broadway. If you're considering a visit, don't forget to explore Broadway Inbound's wide range of discounts and deals for group viewing. With their special offers, catching a Broadway show has never been more accessible. Grab your theatre tickets, sit back, and let this show take you on a rollicking ride from the glitz and glamor of Broadway to the cornfields of the Midwest.