“The Voice” has not been much concerned with current Broadway voices until now. That’ll change in a big way with this coming Monday’s episode, which will feature a show-stopping number from “Shucked” — marking the first time a song from a currently running Broadway show has been featured on the long-running singing competition series.
The song is “Independently Owned,” a major nightly showcase for Tony nominee Alex Newell. It’s been cited as the rare example of an original Broadway musical having its first and possibly biggest standing-ovation number come in the middle of the first act… and it’s a testament to “Shucked” as a whole that the production doesn’t feel like it’s going downhill from that early barn-burner.
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“We have always imagined ‘The Voice’ as a platform to foster talent while being relevant and of-the-moment,” Melissa Watkins Trueblood, the head of talent for “The Voice,” says. “It is a joy to have such a phenomenal talent as Alex Newell on the show and get to play a role in this journey for ‘Shucked.'”
The performance by Newell was booked during a period of uncertainty when it didn’t look as if the Tonys would happen on network television in June this year; that kudocast is particularly important for productions like “Shucked” that don’t have a lot of preexisting IP name value. Now it appears the Tonys’ show will go on, with producers having made a deal with the Writers Guild for the telecast to proceed next month. “Shucked” will surely benefit from a double-boost in prime time, if a number is booked for the Tonys as well, but having Newell on “The Voice,” with its higher ratings and reach beyond regular theatergoers, provides a first-time opportunity that other Broadway shows have hungered for.
Says Sandbox Entertainment’s Jason Owen, one of the producers of “Shucked,” “Alex Newell is ‘the voice’ of Broadway. Alex’s Tony-nominated performance, along with the incredible cast and creatives of ‘Shucked,’ continue to win the hearts of everyone who sees this show. We are beyond grateful to my friends at ‘The Voice’ and NBC for giving ‘Shucked’ — and the Broadway community — an opportunity to reach millions of viewers from coast to coast with what will be incredible, unforgettable performance.” ‘ continue to win the hearts of everyone who sees this show. We are beyond grateful to my friends at ‘The Voice’ and NBC for giving ‘Shucked’ — and the Broadway community — an opportunity to reach millions of viewers from coast to coast with what will be incredible, unforgettable performance.”
A recent Variety profile of Newell noted the unusual position the actor was in in the run-up to the Tony nominations: whether to contend for best supporting actor or supporting actress. The character on-stage, Lulu, is a cis female, with no gender fluidity inherent in the script, or apparent to most audiences. But Newell is gender-nonconforming, accepting he/his, she/her and they/them pronouns. Ultimately, Newell (previously known to TV audiences for “Glee” and “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist”) wanted to be considered in the supporting actor category.
The “Shucked” cast is very much an ensemble one, with other actors earning nightly standing ovations as well; if the Tonys want to pick a different number than “Independently Owned” to put on that telecast, there are plenty of picks to choose from. But with the Tony nod, there’s little doubt that Newell has emerged as a standout among standouts. Newell is also up for Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Drama League Awards.
“I’m super excited to bring Broadway to ‘The Voice,'” Newell said in a statement. “As a fan of the show, I love that it’s about embracing and celebrating big, captivating voices. And to be singing my big number for the first time on TV is the cherry on top.”
The episode with Newell’s performance will air Monday from 8-10 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.
In the announcement of Tony nominees, “Shucked” tied for second with nine nominations, coming in behind only “Some Like It Hot.” The co-writers of “Independently Owned” and the rest of the music, Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally, are up for best score. Other nominees from the show include Jack O’Brien for direction and Robert Horn for best book for a musical. Joining Newell in contending for an acting award is fellow cast member Kevin Cahoon, a comedic knockout who arguably generates the most laughs per night, albeit with less of a featured singing role in the show. The show is also up for scenic design, sound design and orchestrations, as well as the big one, best musical.
For more on “Shucked,” read Variety‘s story “How Broadway Got ‘Shucked’: The 12-Year Journey to a Riotous Production That Could Be the Musical-Comedy Sleeper of the Season.”
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