Theatre Review by Howard Miller - April 4, 2023
Shucked. Book by Robert Horn. Music and lyrics by Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally. Directed by Jack O'Brien. Choreography by Sarah O'Gleby. Music supervision, direction, orchestrations, and arrangements by Jason Howland. Scenic design by Scott Pask. Costume design by Tilly Grimes. Lighting design by Japhy Weideman. Sound design by John Shivers. Wig design by Mia Neal. Music coordinator John Miller.
If you are a fan of zippy groan-worthy one-liners, you are in for a treat. That's because playwright Robert Horn, whose punchy, funny script for the musical Tootsie garnered him a Tony Award, seemingly has never met a pun or off-beat comic line he did not love. The two at the start of this review are his, along with an endless supply that pepper the script. Add in an appealing, occasionally rowdy country-inflected score by the Grammy-winning songwriting team of Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally, and you've got yourself a show that is both whimsically hokey and welcoming as an old friend.
A pair of storytellers (Ashley D. Kelley, a charmer; and Grey Henson, even more of a cuddly dork than he was in the Mean Girls musical a few years back) are here to guide us through this "fable" about a place called Cob County, located "somewhere north of south and south of north."
Cob County is so named because its livelihood is totally dependent on the corn that grows there in great abundance. Or did. Because by the time we arrive, we gaze into a place where the corn is mysteriously withering away. Unless someone goes for help, it will be the end of everything, including (gasp!) the corn whiskey. That particular brew is one of its mainstay products, distilled, bottled, and sold by Lulu, a powerhouse personality played by a powerhouse performer, Alex Newell, one of the show's two scene stealers.
Truthfully, though, one Lu isn't enough to encompass either Lulu or Alex Newell, who all but brings down the roof timbers on Scott Pask's barn-like set with the rip-roaring song, "Independently Owned," about a strong woman living on her own, running a successful business, and loving it all. ("Don't need a man for flatteries. I got a corn cob and some batteries.") Between Newell's Lulu and the show's other scene stealer, Kevin Cahoon as Peanut, the spewer of off-the-wall wisdom and kind-hearted advice, you might as well throw in the towel and give in to this show that preaches both love and the need to "drink a little." All told, that is good advice indeed, whether you live in the land of Corn or the land of the Big Apple.