Hands on a Hardbody, the Musical About American Endurance, Will Roll to Broadway

By Kenneth Jones
29 May 2012

David Larsen
David Larsen
Photo by Kevin Berne

Hands on a Hardbody, the new musical about a Texas endurance competition, will open on Broadway in the 2012-13 season, producers Broadway Across America (John Gore, Thomas B. McGrath, Beth Williams), Rich Entertainment Group (Bob and Mindy Rich), Barbara Whitman, Latitude Link, Dede Harris, Sharon Karmazin, and Howard and Janet Kagan announced on May 29. Jim Newman and Tony nominees Keith Carradine, Hunter Foster and Mary Gordon Murray star in the current world premiere at La Jolla Playhouse, but no New York casting is yet confirmed.

A Broadway theatre will be announced. The musical based on the documentary film has a book by Pulitzer Prize winner Doug Wright (I Am My Own Wife, Creditors), lyrics by Amanda Green (High Fidelity, Bring It On) and music by Trey Anastasio (lead singer of the band Phish) and Amanda Green.

Neil Pepe (Speed-the-Plow, A Behanding in Spokane) directs the reality-inspired musical about an auto dealership that launches an endurance contest in which "ten economically-strapped strangers embark on a journey that puts their hearts, minds and bodies to the test," according to La Jolla Playhouse. "The contestant who keeps at least one hand on a brand-new hardbody truck the longest gets to drive it off the lot. What initially seems like a mere publicity stunt soon becomes a soul-baring battle of wills. Only one can win, but for all involved, the truck holds the key to their own private American dream."

Here's how the Broadway producers characterize it: "For ten hard-luck Texans, a new lease on life is so close they can touch it. Under a scorching sun for days on end, armed with nothing but hope, humor and ambition, they'll fight to keep at least one hand on a brand new truck in order to win it. In the hilarious, hard-fought contest that is Hands On a Hardbody only one winner can drive away with the American Dream."



The California company features Tony Award nominee Carradine ("Nashville," Broadway's The Will Rogers Follies) as JD Drew; Allison Case (Hair revival on Broadway) as Kelli Mangrum; Newman (Steel Pier) as Mike Ferris; Tony nominee Foster (Little Shop of Horrors, LJP's Little Miss Sunshine; Broadway's Urinetown) as Benny Perkins; Jay Armstrong Johnson (Broadway's Catch Me If You Can) as Greg Wilhote; David Larsen (Broadway's Good Vibrations) as Chris Alvaro; Kathleen Elizabeth Monteleone (Legally Blonde national tour) as Heather Stovall; Tony nominee Murray (Broadway's Little Me) as Virginia Drew; Connie Ray (author/performer Smoke on the Mountain, Broadway's Next Fall) as Cindy Barnes; Jon Rua (Broadway's In the Heights) as Jesus Peňa; Keala Settle (Broadway's Priscilla Queen of the Desert) as Norma Valverde; Dale Soules (Grey Gardens) as Janis Curtis; Jacob Ming Trent (Lincoln Center Theater's On the Levee) as Ronald McGowan; Scott Wakefield (Broadway's It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues) as Frank Nugent; and William Youmans (Playhouse's Dracula, Twelfth Night) as Don Curtis/Dr. Stokes.

Musical staging is by Benjamin Millepied ("Black Swan"). Performances play to June 17 in LJP's Mandell Weiss Theatre in La Jolla, CA.

The creative team includes music director Zachary Dietz (In the Heights); Tony Award-winning scenic designer Christine Jones (Spring Awakening); Tony-winning costume designer Susan Hilferty (Wicked); Tony-winning lighting designer Kevin Adams (American Idiot); sound designer Steve Canyon Kennedy (Jersey Boys); and Playhouse Resident Dramaturg Shirley Fishman.

The Playhouse commissioned Hands on a Hardbody and further developed it through a series of readings and workshops, "as part of the institution's mission to serve as a safe harbor for artists and a launching pad for new work."

For tickets and information, visit LaJollaPlayhouse.org.