Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Shucked - A down-home treat

Reviewed by Judd Hollander

Shucked, the new musical comedy at Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre has far too many corn-related puns, references, and innuendos to count. It’s also corn-poppingly funny.

The musical offers a retelling of a Cob County legend. Cob County was founded about 500 years ago when a band of Pilgrims, who didn’t agree with the Puritan way of doing things, were looking for a place to call their own. Which they found in “miles of unclaimed, Non-Native American owned land.” Mistrustful of outsiders, they planted rows of corn that would grow as “high as an elephant’s eye” and completely surround the town to keep its inhabitants safe from those who had no business being there. This plan worked for generations, with corn and all its variations – including moonshine – becoming their major food source and economic engine. Until the day the corn began to die.

With no one able to understand why this is happening, local farmer Maizy (Caroline Innerbichler), feels they must seek help from the outside world. However, most of her neighbors and friends, including Maizy’s beau, Beau (Andrew Durand) who she is about to marry, reject the idea out of hand.

                              The cast of Shucked. Photo by Matthew Murphy & Evan Zimmerman

Determined not to see her beloved farm, crops and home all dry up and blow away, and with some encouragement from her cousin Lulu (Alex Newell), a resolute Maizy sets out on her journey. Eventually she reaches Tampa , Florida , where she stumbles upon a self-proclaimed “corn doctor” named Gordy (John Behlmann).

Gordy is actually a failed conman, disowned by his family due to his inability in the trade. At first, Gordy has no desire to help Maizy. Until the stones in the antique bracelet she wears catches his eye. After initially confirming the stones value, and how abundant they are in Cob County , Gordy assures Maizy he can fix their corn problem. It’s not long before complications arise when Gordy runs afoul of Lulu. A person who pretty much has a built in radar when it comes to liars; even as she begins to feel an attraction for this outsider Maizy has brought into their midst. Meanwhile Maizy finds herself torn between her love for Beau and her growing feelings towards Gordy

                         Alex Newell in Shucked. Photos by Matthew Murphy & Evan Zimmerman

For all its corn-spun humor – not surprising considering bookwriter Robert Horn’s first kernel of an idea for this show came from the television series “Hee-Haw” – at its core, Shucked stresses the importance of honesty, respect, and family. Family in this case referring not only to those related by blood, but those who are part of an extended community, all of whom depend on each other. There’s also the importance of not being afraid to consider something new, just because it may be different from what has gone before. A point illustrated in the ballad “Walls,” as beautifully sung by Innerbichler. This early number also establishes the show as something more than an elongated comedy sketch. Though to be fair, just about every third line in the show ends in a quip, pun or homily guaranteed to make the audience laugh, groan or nod in agreement. Many of these moments coming from Beau, his brother Peanut (Kevin Cahoon), and the show’s Storytellers (Ashley D. Kelley and Grey Henson).

Shucked isn’t so much a message show as a show with a message; and there is an important difference. That being the musical, which also has passing references to climate change and the current political environment, doesn’t repeatedly hit you over the head with what it wants to say. Rather, it tells a story with a few moral lessons embedded therein and leaves the audience to derive from it what they will.

                              The cast of Shucked. Photo by Matthew Murphy & Evan Zimmerman

The score by Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally is excellent, with highlights ranging from the over-the-top opening sequence “Corn,” to the comic “Bad.” There’s also the soulful “OK,” put forth by Durand; the rousing “Best Man Wins;” and the fantastic “Independently Owned.” That last, a powerful blues number by Newell, quite literally stops the show in its tracks and garners the performer a well-deserved standing ovation.

Innerbichler does a wonderful job as Maizy, a strong-willed though occasionally naive sort determined to save the town and get the respect she deserves. Durand works well as Beau, an earnest if somewhat stereotypical hayseed type. Behlmann is fine as Gordy, who learns there’s more to life than coming out on top. Newell is a wonder as Lulu. A cautious but caring cynic who learns to open herself up to the unexpected. Indeed, by the show’s end, all of the characters are significantly changed due to what they’ve experienced.

                The cast of Shucked. Photo by Matthew Murphy & Evan Zimmerman

Jack O’Brien’s direction keeps the show moving nicely while never going off the rails into either parody or preaching. Sarah O’Gleby’s choreographic work is enjoyable from start to finish. Scott Pask’s set, basically a huge barn with all the requisite trimmings, nicely fits the show’s atmosphere. Also deserving of credit is Jason Howland’s excellent orchestrations.

Shucked offers jokes, music, a love quadrangle, and a bit of gentle moralizing. Most of all, it’s a lot of fun.

Featuring: John Behlmann (Gordy), Kevin Cahoon (Peanut), Andrew Durand (Beau), Grey Henson (Storyteller 2), Caroline Innerbichler (Maizy), Ashley D. Kelley (Storyteller 1), Alex Newell (Lulu).

Ensemble: Jimmy Brewer, Audrey Cardwell, Dwayne Clark, Rheaume Crenshaw, Jaygee Macpugay, Scott Stangland, Yasmeen Sulieman, Quinn Vanantwerp


Book by Robert Horn

Music &  Lyrics by Brandy Clark & Shane McAnally

Scenic Design: Scott Pask

Costume Design: Tilly Grimes

Lighting Design: Japhy Weideman

Sound Design: John Shivers

Wig Design: Mia Neal

Music Supervision, Music Direction, Orchestrations and Arrangements: Jason Howland

Choreographed by Sarah O’Gleby

Directed by Jack O’Brien


Nederlander Theatre

208 West 41st Street

Tickets: 212-239-6200 or


Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes, one intermission

Open run


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