‘Shucked’: A Broadway Musical That Doubles Down on the Corn

When Horn was a baby, his father skipped town. His mother struggled with depression, and at the age of 9, he was sent to an orphanage, where he found that making jokes sometimes kept him from being beaten up.

The first version of the show was called “Moonshine: That Hee Haw Musical,” and in 2015, it ventured to Dallas. A local critic called it “cartoonish,” and Variety predicted the musical-comedy would succeed only “far from the Great White Way.” “Moonshine” was foundering, “so we had to let it go,” Horn said.

While making “Moonshine,” Horn had grown so close to the two songwriters that after his sister died, Clark called him and said, “I’m your sister now.” None of them were ready to give up on the idea of the show, so Horn got the band back together.

The Opry Entertainment Group had bowed out, so they threw away the title and all but three songs. And there was a new addition to the team: the director Jack O’Brien, who fell in love with country music in the 1980s thanks to his then boyfriend. Catching the show on the rebound, O’Brien, the only person to win Tonys for directing “Henry IV” and “Hairspray,” knew “Shucked” needed some weight. “It’s so campy it would float away,” he said.

He urged the songwriters to throw out their opening number, which they loved. He proposed a new song that celebrates corn, one in which the word corn sounded “like a foghorn,” Clark recalled, and the songwriters were delighted when they realized the giddy, tone-setting result was better.

When it came time to see what audiences thought, the show’s producers booked the National Theater in Washington, D.C., with a plan to open there in late 2020. But then the pandemic arrived. “It was an ill wind, in the classic sense, that brought us some good,” O’Brien said.

While the creative team continued to hone the show, some of the actors, with Broadway mostly shut down, had nothing to do.

Must Read

Related Articles