NEW YORK CITY — In the fall of 2022, I was one of the lucky critics to witness the world premiere of the corny new musical Shucked (with a book by Robert Horn and music and lyrics by Brandy Clark and Shane McNally). After that Utah premiere the show went made its transition to Broadway. As a critic, this felt like a unique opportunity to have reviewed the out of town tryout in 2022, and to now have the opportunity to see how the show has evolved to the Broadway stage. I was so excited to have the opportunity to see this transformation.
The marketing team for Shucked is on point. From the time the Broadway debut was announced, I was impressed with how creatively this production sold itself. People did not know what to think about this show about corn, but they sure knew it was there. From using the viral TikTok corn kid to serving fresh corn on 41st street, there was no doubt that Shucked had arrived in New York City.
Next, there were some significant casting changes since I saw the show, an understudy in a key role the day of my performance. And yet the shining star of Alex Newell was still there in all their glory. As was in Salt LakeCity and the Tony Awards broadcast, Newell brought down the house with their “Independently Owned and Operated.” They received a well deserved standing ovation for their mid-first act bring down the house anthem.
One of the main changes is the role of Maizy, played now by Isabelle McCalla. Having had a chance to interview Caroline Innerbichler, who originated the role, I was nervous about how I would react to a replacement. However, McCalla was phenomenal and had a strong interpretation of the character. I loved her rendition of the song “Woman of the World.” Another cast change was one of the narrators, Grey Henson, who is known for originating the role of Damian in Mean Girls on Broadway. I had loved the dynamics and humor of the narrators in Salt Lake and hoped the change would not impact that, and luckily it did not. His performance, combined with Ashley D. Kelley as the other narrator, was just as joyful and humorous as the first time, with the benefit of the needed tightening of the script that made the show feel more smooth.
Jimmy Brewer was the understudy performing the role of Beau, and his performance highlighted two things for me. First, the versatility of understudy performance and the work behind the scenes that it takes to be prepared for these roles. Brewer and McCalla had fantastic chemistry, and knowing that they do not often play these roles together made their interactions even more impressive. Second, it underscored my initial thoughts regarding this show from 2022: that Shucked‘s audience is outside of New York City.
And that is likely why the Broadway production of Shucked is slated to close in January. However, as I said in my initial review, I believe Shucked will have life outside of New York. While I love Broadway productions and relish every show I ever get to see, there is so much creativity and talent in other parts of the country. A show like Shucked is going to succeed in Omaha and Des Moines when it visits those cities on the national tour that has just been announced. Further, once it hits the regional circuit, Shucked will enjoy new, exciting interpretations outside of the concrete jungle.
As I have stated before, the world of theatre is evolving and we should evolve with it. Broadway does not have to be the only sign that a show has merit. (And please remember, this is coming from a woman that has an “I love Broadway” pin on her coat and likely has spent the vast majority of her discretionary income over the years on the Great White Way.) The industry is pricing theatre lovers out of Broadway, but people will always create. We should meet them where they are. Shucked can help us get there.