Friday, October 27, 2023

Shucked (Broadway)

♣♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

Nothing much happens in Cob county, where everything revolves around the town’s primary product: CORN. Storyteller 1 (Ashley D. Kelley) and Storyteller 2 (Grey Henson) volunteer to share a short history of the town, from its first immigrant settlers who discovered the value of corn early on all the way to a fable involving two local sweethearts about to get married but have to back out as soon as the corn started dying. Maizy (Isabella McCalla) braves the unknown and ventures out to Tampa to seek a professional’s help. There, she runs into a “corn doctor”, a proctologist named Gordy (John Behlmann) who happens to be a con artist. She takes him back to town, much to the chagrin of her ex future husband Beau (Andrew Durand) and the skepticism of her cousin Lulu (Miki Abraham). As they all go on with their daily lives pursuing their own agenda, some clarity will be had with a promise of resurrection for their favorite food staple.

I just can’t with this show. WHO WROTE THIS?? The puns. The similes. The play on words  is on an entirely different level. Many times my brain was left on loading amidst the barrage of punchlines, before eventually rolling on the floor laughing after wrapping my head around the joke. Silly. Corny, probably. Hilarious, nonetheless. It’s not The Book of Mormon where the audience erupts in laughter every other minute, but it sure comes close. It derives much of its comedy on word play and the absurdity resulting from it.

McCalla doesn’t just have great comedic timing, but also possesses that big voice which leaves you in awe despite the absurdity of some of the lyrics. She finds a worthy adversary in Abraham. Replacing Alex Newell in a role he originated and won a Tony for sure is some tough shoes to fill, but you won’t be needing a lot of convincing once you hear her belt Independently Owned, which is the only one I vaguely remember because I was busy laughing my head off. I guess it left that much of an impression.

Another cast member to watch out for is Kevin Cahoon as Peanut, Beau’s simpleton brother who has too many funny anecdotes to share and tends to take words a little too literally. As for the puns, it is Storyteller 2 who provides an unlimited supply. If Henson looks familiar, it’s because he also played Damian in Mean Girls The Musical, which means he is no stranger to playing smart alecks. These two characters are probably the funniest among the bunch.

The storyline is as simple as it could be and we can argue that it somehow casts southerners in a bad light, even though such stereotypes seem to be just so widespread and simply brushed aside. Or perhaps we can conclude that it is not a critique of southerners in general but rather of  the rural folks and the much simpler lives they tend to live. Maybe this is also the reason why that skit regarding Tampa was so hilarious, because it just pokes fun at the wildly blatant differences between those two worlds.

This, along with The Book of Mormon and The Play That Goes Wrong, could form a potent Broadway comedy trifecta, if only this musical lasted longer. Unfortunately, it is bound to conclude its run this January. Shucked is Broadway’s biggest surprise this season, and a really pleasant one at that. May its national tour bring more laughter to more people across the country. But yeah, it is sad, because we need more fun Broadway staples like this one.

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