PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Hands on a Hardbody; A Chorus/Assembly Line

By Harry Haun
22 Mar 2013

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One of the side effects of staying awake and standing up for 91 hours is hysterical laughter, and Settle may well have set a new Guinness World Record for sustained laughter on a Broadway stage. Her opening-night effort clocked in at two minutes and 45 seconds. That may not seem like such a long time, but try to do it with Settle's spontaneity and contagious conviction. It's a small, unending eternity.

"My laugh comes from the fact that I know it's coming and that I have no other choice but to do it," the actress explained, "but, once that I start, there are three different cast members on the truck who genuinely start laughing at me because they know how much I'm nervous about it — Kathleen Monteleone, Jon Rua and Keith Carradine. The second I hear Keith Carradine, it's all over. His father used to want to make him laugh as a child growing up — just to hear him laugh because he's got the greatest laugh in the world — and Keith and I, during the rehearsal process, would make each other laugh just to get through the rehearsal schedule. When I hear him laugh — it happens without fail — I'm gone." The audience's response to her giddy recitative fuels her as well, she admitted. "I feel it, but, if I don't have all my cast members on the truck with me, I know, for lack of a better word, I'm screwed."

Settle, a Hawaiian passing for Mexican here, has already put in years of Bloody Marys and worked with Bartlett Sher on the national tour of South Pacific, and she too exploded into tears on meeting her real McCoy backstage right before she presented Valverde to the audience. "I was shaking, and I couldn't let go of her. I didn't want to let go of her because it was so humbling. And she was so overwhelmed and grateful. I just wanted to bottle her up and put her in my pocket and take her home with me."

Relatives of the show's cast and creatives headed the first-nighter list: Green's mom, Phyllis Newman; Carradine's daughter, Martha Plimpton; Trujillo's husband, Jack Noseworthy; and Foster's wife, Jen Cody. Also: producer David Stone and director David Saint; Spelling Bee tunesmith William Finn; The New Group's honcho, Scott Elliott; La Jolla Playhouse artistic director Christopher Ashley; Page McConnell, Jon Fishman and Mike Gordon of Anastasio's Phish group; Stephanie J. Block and Sebastian Arcelus; the show's costume designer, Susan Hilferty; a Next to Normal Tony-winning duo (Alice Ripley and lyricist Brian Yorkey); producers Howard and Janet Kagan; In the Heights Tony winner Lin-Manuel Miranda, currently laboring over his Alexander Hamilton musical; Susan Blackwell, who owns and plays regularly the "Hardbody" documentary; Dogfight's Lindsay Mendez, set March 29 for an "American Songbook" evening with Marco Paguia at Lincoln Center's Kaplan Penthouse; Nice Work If You Can Get It book writer Joe DiPietro; producer Chase Mishkin and director Frank Dunlop; former Phantom Howard McGillin, Frankie James Grande and Isaac Capulto.

The twangy Texas voice making the pre-show announcements belongs to the real, first and only Benny Perkins.

Watch highlights from the Broadway production: