Temple University Grad Ashley D. Kelley Talks About her Role in Shucked on Broadway

-Brenda Hillegas
photos by Emilio Madrid 

Shucked seems to be the most talked about show on Broadway right now. If you read my recent recap, you’ll know that Shucked is non-stop laughing with catchy songs and a sweet message. Cast member Ashley D. Kelley, a Temple University graduate, took some time away from her storytelling duties on stage to talk to us more about her background in music and theatre, her role in the show, and even hinted at her favorite scene- you’ll have to find out why in person! Grab your tickets to Shucked here.

Q: What’s your first memory of music or musical theatre? What made you decide this is what you wanted to do full time?
A: I think my first memory of music was hearing my mommy sing at church. I’m a “PK” aka a Pastor’s Kid, and so I was surrounded by music at a very early age. I remember being a child watching and hearing my mom sing a sermonic selection before my dad would get up to preach. Gospel music is so expressive and full of passion and faith. It’s storytelling. Mix that with the art of performance, the desire to connect, share stories, feelings and emotions just made musical theater feel like home. 

Q: You chose to attend Temple University to study theatre. Why there? How did your education here in Philadelphia prepare you for your stage career?
A: Temple wasn’t even on my radar until I tagged along on a college tour with my brother. I remember standing on Broad Street walking by the Liacouras Center and feeling this overwhelming sense of home. It was the first time having this feeling on a college campus and I just knew I had to be here. As soon as the time came for me to apply for college the only application I sent in was an early decision application to Temple. I loved my education at Temple and the city of Philadelphia! I was able to explore who I was as an artist with the guidance of the faculty in a city full of amazing theater. Professors like Dan Kern, David Ingram, Nancy Boykin, Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon and the late Lee Kenneth Richardson encouraged and taught me to think outside of the box and not limit myself to specific “types.” That has been monumental in how I approached my acting career and I’m grateful for them. 

Q: Tell us a bit about the Shucked audition process for you. Why did you want to be a part of this show?
A: My audition process was a little unique in that I was sent an audition to be put on tape in early spring of 2022 for an industry reading at the Daryl Roth Theater. I had 6 sides to prepare, a snippet of a song from the show and 32 bars of a song of my choosing. It was a lot! I think I was more curious about how a show about corn could possibly make it to Broadway so I thought to myself, why not!? I sent in my materials and a few days later as I was boarding a plane coming back to NY, I got the call from my agent and manager saying they loved me and offered me the role! The reading was amazing, and I fell in love with this hilarious, outrageous and beautiful story. Needless to say it was mutual, as now a year later I’m fully Shucked on Broadway.

Q: You play Storyteller #1 and you’re on stage for a lot of scenes- how can you possibly keep a straight face through all of the jokes and puns as a new audience reacts each night?
A: The beauty about playing one of the storytellers is that we are dancing between being in the story and being outside of it. We (Grey Henson and I) get to connect and talk straight to the audience. This leaves a lot of room for organic reactions and improv as each audience is completely different and we get to experience our show differently every night…so we don’t necessarily have to worry about keeping a straight face as we get to laugh and joke with the audience. I’ve never played such a unique character that breaks the fourth wall completely like this and I’m having a blast! 

Q: Do you have a favorite song or scene from the show?
A: I have two! My favorite song would have to be a tie between “Somebody Will,” sung by Andrew Durand and “Independently Owned,” sung my Alex Newell! Both songs I get to experience on stage each night and I’m just in awe of these two actors and their incredible performances. It makes me so proud to be in this company with them. Another favorite scene would have to be the very last scene with my partner in crime Grey Henson who plays Storyteller 2…but you’ll have to come see the show to find out why!

Q: Why do you think audiences love Shucked so much?
A: It’s a completely new, unexpected original musical comedy that will have you laughing so hard you’ll forget all your troubles and worries for 2 hours and 20 minutes. It’s pure joy and dopamine! It gives the audience permission to just exhale in this world we live in. I think that’s why they love it so much. It’s a release. 

Q: What’s your favorite way to enjoy corn?
A: I love a simple corn on the cob with butter, salt and pepper! 

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