The cast of Shucked on Broadway
Photograph: Courtesy Matthew Murphy and Evan ZimmermanShucked
  • Theater, Musicals
  • Recommended



4 out of 5 stars

A deliciously corny new show? We're all ears.


Time Out says

Broadway review by Adam Feldman 

The jokes pop like corn on a cast-iron stove in the musical Shucked. They pour out in a ceaseless succession of happy little bursts, one after another—pop! pop!—to be buttered and salted by a game and endearing cast. Are those cobs in the actors’ pockets, or are they happy to see you? Both. And if a few kernels fail to inflate, they’re forgotten amid the bounty: Before you know it, you’re gorged to satisfaction on a big, tasty bag of Broadway puff.  

Shucked was originally conceived as an adaptation of the long-running TV variety show Hee Haw, and although it is no longer connected to that property, it embraces its roots in tele-vaudeville. Set mostly in the ultra-rural enclave of Cob County—whose cheerfully inbred residents, fenced off from the rest of America by a wall of corn stalks, have not left its confines in generations—the show tells a “farm to fable” tale that pits the slickness of the city against the hickery of the sticks. A pair of narrators, played by Grey Henson and Ashley D. Kelley, help guide us through the maize maze of the story. But the plot is essentially a framework, as sturdy but hole-ridden as Scott Pask’s tumbledown set, for Shucked’s primary selling point: laughs, and plenty of 'em.

The country-fried score, by the accomplished Nashville songwriters Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally, includes rollicking comedic numbers and a sprinkling of sincere character songs. The latter fall to the central romantic couple, Maizy (Caroline Innerbichler) and Beau (Andrew Durant), whose wedding is postponed by a sudden crisis—all the corn in town goes flaccid—that drives the unworldly bride-to-be to hit the road in search of agricultural help. When this quasi-Rumspringa break lands Maizy in Tampa, she gets snared by a handsome dirtbag, Gordy (John Behlmann), who suspects that her corn-walled county is rich with precious stones; when he follows her home, he butts heads with Beau and with Maizy’s cousin Lulu (Alex Newell), the local booze distiller. 

Shucked | Photograph: Courtesy Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

While the lyrics sometimes lack the rigor of the best Broadway songwriting—the word “Tampa” is forced into shotgun rhymes with “camera,” “plasma” and “extravaganza”—the songs mostly hit the spot, and the show knows how to sell them. Director Jack O’Brien and choreographer Sarah O’Gleby set the show’s winking tone in an opening number that nods to Michael Bennett and Tommy Tune, and roll out the barrels later on for the Seven Brides for Seven Brothers–style showstopper “The Best Man Wins.” Innerbichler acts and sings with winsome lucidity, and the limber-voiced Durant scores with Beau’s hurt-but-defiant “Somebody Will.” But Newell ignites the show’s real barn burner: “Independently Owned,” in which hooch mama Lulu declares her autonomy and Newell, as in Once on This Island, soars to stratospheric vocal heights with unperturbed poise. (When I saw the show, the song earned a partial standing ovation in the middle of Act I.)

The show’s most valuable player, however, is book writer Robert Horn, who won a Tony for his similar Tootsie role and who stuffs Shucked’s script with laugh-out-loud puns and one-liners. Many of them are variations on time-tested jokes, often delivered straight to the audience by Henson’s cheeky storyteller (“Like the lazy dentist said: Brace yourself”) or the unimprovable Kevin Cahoon as Beau’s yokel brother, Peanut (“If you have time to jump in front of a bullet for someone, they have time to move”). Shakespeare this is not—though there’s a hint of Much Ado About Nothing to Lulu and Gordy’s sparring, as paced by O’Brien. But as in a movie like Airplane!, the sheer volume of old-fashioned silliness wins you over. It’s a cornucopia. 

Shucked. Nederlander Theatre (Broadway). Book by Robert Horn. Music and lyrics by Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally. Directed by Jack O’Brien. With Caroline Innerbichler, Andrew Durand, Alex Newell, John Behlmann, Kevin Cahoon, Grey Henson, Ashley D. Kelley. Running time: 2hrs 10mins. One intermission.

Follow Adam Feldman on Twitter: @FeldmanAdam
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Shucked | Photograph: Courtesy Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman


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