Caroline Innerbichler has always enjoyed applying her tangy soprano to a wide range of material. “My singing style is that I love switching styles,” she says. “My parents always had music on in our house, and it was all genres, so I got exposed at a very young age to everything from the Eagles and Linda Ronstadt to Broadway musicals,” she says. Later, she sang in cover bands dedicated to the classic rock of Pink Floyd and Queen.
Now Innerbichler, perhaps best known for playing Anna in the first national tour of Frozen, gets to make her Broadway debut singing material by the acclaimed Nashville tunesmiths Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally in the new musical comedy Shucked. Not that audiences should expect strictly country fare: Clark and McAnally are both versed in musical theater, and their score also incorporates elements of blues, pop, and gospel music.
Set to begin previews March 8 and open April 4 at the Nederlander Theatre, the production casts the young actress as Maizy, a small-town girl who heads for the big city to help save her community when the corn crop, its chief source of revenue, mysteriously begins dying.
Featuring a libretto by Robert Horn, a Tony Award winner for Tootsie, and directed by celebrated theater veteran and three-time Tony winner Jack O’Brien, Shucked deals in corn both literally and figuratively. “It’s a comedy first and foremost, but it will sneak up on you and pull at your heartstrings,” says Innerbichler. “There’s a focus on individual relationships to the community and to outsiders, which I think is very of-the-moment. Post-pandemic, community is something we’ve all been starved for.”
A friend had introduced Innerbichler to some of Clark’s music “right around the time I started working on Frozen, and I thought, this woman is incredible. She tells a full story within a song. Shane and Brandy’s music is as pure and honest as anything could be—super-playful on the exterior, but it ends up packing a real emotional punch.”
Innerbichler is equally bullish on Horn’s book and how he’s fleshed out Maizy in particular. “I really enjoy digging into this character. I’ve played a lot of ingenues, and sometimes it’s hard to find something unique about them, to find their humanity. I think Maizy is special because she’s flawed. She’s obviously determined and fearless in a lot of ways, but she’s stubborn, and she can be naive. There’s not a perfect person or relationship in this show, and I think it’s hard to show that kind of humanity in comedy.”
O’Brien gives Innerbichler a lot of credit for her own input. “There’s a kind of young actress and comic who is very, very original; they’re not aggressive or edgy, but they think funny. Caroline is like that. This whole company is nuts and adorable and at the top of their game, and she, without raising a finger, dominates the whole evening. She has some of the funniest lines you’ve ever heard, and she makes them completely fresh and honest.”
Innerbichler returns the praise, calling O’Brien “such a special creature. He’s just this sage sitting in the rehearsal room while we’re making things. He’ll say, ‘Have you thought about this?’—but he’ll let us play, and he’ll let us try. I think one of the best things about Jack is that he’ll see an idea through with so much tenacity and optimism, as if every idea will work, even though not all of them do. You can’t help but get excited going to work, and watching everyone else in the room work too.”
Rehearsing the role of Maizy has also been a bittersweet process for Innerbichler: The character reminds her of her grandmother, who is currently in hospice care. “She and my grandfather had an almond orchard in Atwood, California, and I have many distinct memories of going out to their farm, and seeing my grandmother in her nightgown, with bare feet, and tending to the fruit trees. She was so funny and full of stories; her beauty came from her rustic-ness, her cackle, love of the earth, and her community. Maizy is a farmer—she’s a woman who lives with her hands in the dirt. There are ways that I’ll walk or use my hands while playing her that are my grandmother.”
Innerbichler notes, “This is a fable we’re telling in this show, and my grandmother was full of fables. I’m just so ready for people to come and see it, and to sit back and laugh. I’ll paraphrase Jack O’Brien: On our first day of rehearsal, he said what a wonderful thing it was for a whole auditorium of strangers to not only listen to a story and give reverence to it, but to take in and expel air together, after being afraid to sit with each other for such a long time. What a magical thing. I’m ready for that.”
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