Brandy Clark Talks ‘Shucked’ Success: ‘My Heart Was Prepared for It to Be a Flop’
From the beginning, the Shucked musical was always going to be a little bit of an underdog on Broadway. Though plenty of the best-loved productions of all time have had country flair — like Oklahoma and Annie Get Your Gun, the latter of which mounted a revived run starring Reba McEntire — country music has always been a relatively unpopular format for a Broadway musical. The project was years in the making, and an early run of the show at Washington, D.C.'s National Theater was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in late 2020.
"I thought, 'Okay, this is either going to be a massive hit or a massive flop.' I knew it wouldn't be anything in the middle," Clark explains to Taste of Country. "And clearly there was some part of me that thought it was gonna be a hit, or I wouldn't have stuck with it. But I think my heart was more prepared for it to be a flop."
McAnally and Clark, who are longtime friends and songwriting collaborators, spent a little over a decade working on Shucked, which tells the story of a small town in Cobb County completely fenced in from the outside world by rows of corn. When the corn starts to die off, one Cobb County resident named Maizy makes her way to the big city to try to find a way to save the corn — and the town.
Even once the show finally had a premiere date in sight, Clark says she still had her doubts about the show's success due to some "tough previews," small ticket sales and adjustments to the production. Then, after a preview in Salt Lake City, Utah, she began to see a shift in audience reaction.
"To have people jump out of their seats the way they did, it was like nothing I've ever experienced. I cried for probably 24 hours," Clark remembers. "And then the next day, to walk in and have the box office say, 'I've been working here for 30 years and never seen word of mouth spread this fast.' Overnight, we were selling out."
Emotions ran especially high because of all the time and love Clark and McAnally had invested in the musical, and because of their longstanding love for each other.
"I can't completely speak for him, but we're both just overcome with emotion at how it's being received. You know, it's just beyond my wildest dreams," Clark says.
For all their success as songwriters in the country genre, Clark and McAnally are both figures that audiences might not expect to see behind a country music musical. Both of them are gay, for example, and Clark's career as a recording artist has typically straddled the border of country and Americana. For Broadway audiences, they're offering a musical perspective that viewers might not necessarily associate with the stereotypes of the country format.
"Our goal — he and I both talked about it — we always wanted for people to walk out of the theater and say, 'Wow, that's not what I thought country music is, and if that's what country music is, I love it.' And we also wanted country music people to say, 'That's not what I thought musical theater is, and I love it,'" Clark continues.
"I think we've done that," she adds. "I know we've done the second thing. People who have come from the country music world, I've had many people say to me, 'I hate musicals, but I love this.'"
Shucked earned multiple nominations at the upcoming 2023 Tony Awards. The awards show is set for June 11.
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