By: Paulanne Simmons
April 13, 2023: Whether or not you enjoy Shucked, Broadway’s new musical based on corn, both the kind you grow and the kind you write, depends mostly on your sense of humor. If you like a barrage of one-liners, often based on puns, potty humor or sexual innuendo, you’re in. Otherwise, you might find yourself bored or exasperated.
Fortunately, director Jack O’Brien keeps the show moving so quickly you’ll hardly be finished groaning or laughing at one joke before you’re hit with another. And the lively score may help you forget there’s really not much going on to be singing about.
One of Shucked’s principal claims to fame is that it’s totally original. Indeed, this musical, with a book by Robert Horn and a score by Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally, is not based on a movie, a novel or some ancient Greek myth. But that doesn’t mean it sprung from the ground like a fresh ear of corn.
In fact, the plot, which focuses on a man trying to con a town into believing he can make blighted corn grow again, owes much to The Music Man. The humor is straight out of the television show, Hee Haw, which featured country music and down-home jokes. And the touch of sly sophistication is inspired by Saturday Night Live.
The show is narrated by two amiable people (Grey Henson and Ashley D. Kelley) who seem to have no relationship to the town or any of the people who live in it. They often break the fourth wall with a knowing wink and nod to the audience. Exactly why they’ve taken it upon themselves to tell this story is anyone’s guess.
Beau (Andrew Durand) is the town hero. Maizy (Caroline Innerbichler) is his smart, but somewhat naïve fiancée. They are just about to get married when they realize the danger the town is in. Despite Beau’s misgivings, Maizy sets out to find someone to help them.
She ends up in Tampa where she meets Gordy (John Behlmann), a grifter pretending to be a podiatrist so he can take advantage of Maizy’s misunderstanding of “corn doctor.” Gordy needs to pay off some debts quickly. And after admiring Maizy‘s bracelet, made up of what he believes are priceless rocks found in her hometown, he devises a plan to dig up more rocks while the town thinks he’s figuring out how to save the corn crop.
Their return is greeted with skepticism not only from Beau but also Maizy’s cousin Lulu (Alex Newell), who delivers the only truly funny and on-target jokes in the show, and Beau’s brother, Peanut (Kevin Cahoon), whose name reflects the size of his brain rather than his snacking preferences. His jokes are the source of many of the show’s most irrelevant humor.
There are too many corn jokes to even scratch the surface. But if you consider that in addition to “Maizy” and “corn doctor,” there’s also the great “hominy” of life in “Cob County” you’ll get a kernel of an idea.
The last bon mot was mine. And if you laughed, you just might enjoy this show.
208 West 41st Street
New York, NY 10036
Opened on 4/4/2023
Photography: Mathew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman