SHUCKED - ALL CORN
If you love corn - that is, the brand of humor - you’ll love “Shucked”, the country musical that is all about corn. If you don’t like corny jokes, prepare - based on this reviewer’s experience - for an endless series of silent groans and eye-rolls. Having gotten that out of the way, “Shucked” is - based on the audience reaction - exceedingly funny and ceaselessly entertaining. From a critical point-of-view, the show has a tightly composed book by Robert Horn (Tony-winning writer of “Tootsie”), solid music and lyrics by Nashville tunesmiths Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally, and assured direction that never misses a beat from veteran director Jack O’Brien (best known for his Tony Award for ‘Hairspray”).
Remember “Hee-Haw”,? If you loved that, too, you’ll really love “Shucked”, which has its roots in the syndicated country-western variety show that ran from 1969 - 1997. “Shucked” fully embraces the culture and music (and skit humor) epitomized in “Hee Haw”. Replete with a quickly-paced series of stand-up jokes and one-liners, “Schucked” weaves a naughty yet affectionate fable about community values. The place is Cob County. Get the corn?
A pair of likable narrators (Ashley D Kelley and Grey Henson) emcee the show and introduce us to Cob, a kind of Garden of Eden of Corn, with no contact with the outside world, full of racial harmony and absent social ills. But when the bountiful crop fails, the naive but determined do-gooder Maizy (get the corn again?) (Caroline Innerbichler, in her Broadway debut) leaves to get help and makes it to the big city of Tampa, where she is whisked off her feet and back to Cob by a handsome grifter Gordy (John Behlman). Back home, Maizy’s loyal fiance, Beau (Andrew Durand), Beau’s dim brother Peanut (Kevin Cahoon) and Maizy’s wise-ass cousin Lulu (Alex Newell) get increasingly suspicious, then impatient with Gordy’s promise to save the crop. (Remind you of “The Music Man”?)
There’s lots of shenanigans, truths get revealed and, there is - surprise! - a happy-ever-after ending. Much of the humor in both dialog and lyrics is juvenile sex humor (the kind of jokes 13 year-old boys think is hilarious) but it works (again, at least by the audience reaction), propelled by 17 musical numbers, all enthusiastically performed by the 6 principals and 8 members of the ensemble. The big number is “Corn” (dah), which opens the show and closes Act 1, a foot- stomping country tune that perfectly observes the Broadway musical idiom. The whole cast is very good, but the standout is Alex Newell as the big, sassy Lulu who steals the show with “Independently Owned”.
The fixed set, a barn-like structure, by Scott Pask (Tony award for “Book of Mormon’) and costumes by Tilly Grimes produce an apt, cartoonish mood. Corn is king. Hee-haw!