The cast and crew of “Shucked” gathered for a joyous celebration on the opening night of this musical comedy at the Nederlander Theatre.
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“Shucked” is set in the fictional Cob County and follows Maizy, portrayed by Caroline Innerbichler in her Broadway debut, on her journey to find a solution for her community’s ailing corn crops. The star-studded cast includes John Behlmann, Kevin Cahoon, Andrew Durand, Grey Henson, Ashley D. Kelley, and Alex Newell.
Henson, discussing his initial impressions of the show, shared, “They were like, ‘It’s just a sweet show about corn that knows exactly what it is.’ And I was like, ‘OK, what does that mean?’ But then reading the script, I was like, ‘Oh, this is a genius piece of musical theater.'”
The choice of corn as the central theme of the musical was not arbitrary. Book writer Robert Horn explained, “I considered every vegetable, but a ‘K’ sound is always funny in comedy, so I knew you could write a lot of things with corn. But also, it was the perfect crop because it is Heartland America — it’s taking place in Heartland America in the middle of the country, and for us, it was a great way to be able to close off from everything outside.”
Horn invested over a decade in crafting the humor, stating, “I wrote ‘hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of jokes. For every joke that’s in the show, there’s probably 30 or 40 that are not. And I changed them out all the time because I get bored.”
The cast and crew had high praise for Horn, known for his work on “Tootsie” and “13,” and director Jack O’Brien, a multi-Tony Award winner with credits including “Hairspray,” “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” and “Porgy and Bess.”
“Jack O’Brien is a living legend,” said Innerbichler. “Getting to pick his brain and getting to hear how he puts the truth into comedy and the reality and honesty of the human experience, even into these hilarious jokes, has made everything so much easier. He really understands how to blend honesty and comedy.”
Kahoon described Horn’s work as a finely tuned science, saying, “He’s a machine. He’ll come up, he’ll give me four new jokes a day and say, ‘Which ones do you want to flop? Switch in and flop out?’ But it’s a math, too. If the sentence is too short, it throws the rhythm off of the sequence. I hope it looks easy and fun, but it really is a science.”
Behlmann and Newell shared the electrifying experience of performing in front of a live audience for the first time, highlighting the incredible energy of the crowd.
Behlmann remarked, “It’s a whole other beast. When you do it in the room with just us — we all heard the jokes a million times and people still laugh — but you forget the roar of people.”
Newell added, “I think a lot of us say that the audience is our third character in the musical. The timing relies on whether they laugh or not, what they react to, what they don’t react to, how they feel, how they say their lines of laughter or if they say their lines of laughter. So it was an informative kind of experience, which I loved.”
Describing what audiences can expect from this corn-themed musical, Durand said, “People can expect to laugh a lot and hear really great music that squeezes your heart a little bit. It’s not beaten over your head, but there’s a lot of love and laughter [that] people can expect in an unexpected way.”
Kelley added her own twist, “A lot of joy and a lot of laughter. You will leave with better abs and very sore cheeks.”