Metro Weekly

‘Shucked’ Broadway Review: Pure Corn-try

Out queer country artists Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally serve up a heapin' helpin' of corny fun with their musical 'Shucked.'

Alex Newell in Shucked

It’s tough to predict what a Broadway season will reap. Inevitably, there will be a handful of short-lived duds, others that have a generously favorable run, and still others that run so long, they become a phenomenon and part of the cultural fabric (Chicago, Wicked, Phantom of the Opera).

It’s a bit premature to group Broadway’s newest musical comedy into any of these three categories, but it’s safe to say that it is harvesting a bonafide crowd-pleaser with Shucked (★★★★★).

It’s not often that the Nashville and New York crowds intertwine with one another, particularly on creative projects. This exception, however, is a winning combination.

Southern-bred and out country singer-songwriters Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally have joined forces with Northeast-based stage and screenwriter Robert Horn to create one of the funniest shows Broadway has seen in quite some time.

Clark, an 11-time Grammy nominee and Country Music Award winner has written songs for Brandi Carlile, Alicia Keys, and Kacey Musgraves. McAnally has three Grammy Awards under his belt and has penned music for artists including Kelly Clarkson, Dolly Parton, Blake Shelton, and Kenny Chesney.

Horn clinched all three major theater awards (Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle) for his witty book adaptation of the musical Tootsie. Older audiences may remember his sharp wit from the hit series Designing Women. He may well be one of the funniest scribes we have in contemporary entertainment.

Together, this trio — along with hitmaker director Jack O’Brien — have created a show that is bountifully overflowing with relentless heart and over-the-top humor. The show’s marketing throughout New York City and in several publications, along with vague descriptions from press agents, was mysterious, auspicious, and brilliant.

Ads featured nothing but the title, a large ear of corn, and fake pull quotes like “Finger Lickin’ Funny” (Kernel Sanders) and “I saw it 300 times before it even opened” (George Santos).

Taking a page from old-school producers, the purse holders behind Shucked made preview prices considerably lower in an effort to create buzz. Although they lost money, the scheme seemed to work as audiences are now rushing to buy tickets.

There’s a heavy dose of silly dad humor in Shucked, but the show itself is in on the joke. The location, the people, and everything discussed nearly link back to one unifier: corn. Set in the fictitious Cob County where Storytellers 1 (Ashley D. Kelley) and 2 (Grey Henson) tell us that “corn popped up on every property line, forming a huge cornwall that completely surrounded the town.”

Consequently, “No one had ever left or came to Cob County.” When the corn crop dies, Maizy (Caroline Innerbichler) leaves the place she’s always known and the man whom she’s always loved, Beau (Andrew Durand). She is determined to find someone who will solve the mystery of the malaised maize. Maizy seduces her newfound knight in shining armor, Gordy (John Behlmann) back to Cob County but he turns out to be a charlatan.

Shucked is not a completely original idea. Borrowing themes from the classic musicals Brigadoon and The Music Man, it incorporates the storyline of an elusive small town taken hostage by a huckster. It’s also no coincidence that the show was originally billed as MOONSHINE: That Hee Haw Musical. That version played the Dallas Theater in 2015 but didn’t fare nearly as well. Perhaps Hee Haw, the homespun American comedy variety show that hit the airwaves in 1969 was simply put out to pasture?

Shucked maintains a strong sensibility of the aforementioned shows and rebrands them with irresistible fun and freshness. Best of all, it actually elevates most of its small-town citizens and ultimately gives them the upper hand. It’s a refreshing change since they are all too often portrayed as brainless and gullible.

The small but mighty cast, as a whole, is fantastic and all are attuned to the style of humor demanded by the material. Alex Newell, known for their roles on Glee and Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is a major standout as Miss Lulu, Maizy’s Aunt and Cob County’s favorite and most feared matriarch. As a corn whiskey distiller, they take no prisoners. It is not hyperbolic to state that Newell literally stops the show with an ode to singlehood entitled “Independently Owned.”

Innerblicher makes an impressive Broadway debut as the dewy-eyed heroine whose sole intent is to save the town. Vocally, she is purely angelic. Kevin Cahoon is also a scene-stealer as Peanut, Cob County’s dim, but reflective farmer who delivers some of Shucked‘s best lines.

Shucked will not ignite a deep, philosophical debate. It’s not meant to. Theater doesn’t always have to be an exercise in intellect. Sometimes it’s best served as a meal of hilarity with side-splitting belly laughs.

Shucked runs at the Nederlander Theater, 208 West 41st St. in New York City. Tickets are $69 to $195. Call 212-921-8000 or visit

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