By Adam Hetrick
and Kenneth Jones
24 Apr 2013
|Photo by Chad Batka|
The musical inspired by the 1997 documentary film offers a cultural pulse-taking about a cross-section of Texans hoping to win a pickup truck in a grueling endurance competition. Hands on a Hardbody began Broadway previews Feb. 23 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, but shuttered April 13 after playing 28 previews and 28 regular performances.
During its brief Broadway life, Hands on a Hardbody captured a number of Broadway fans. Critics found the show appealingly small-scaled, human and likable, if modest to a fault.
Theatrical licensing agency Samuel French, Inc. picked up the rights to Hands on a Hardbody in recent weeks, and it is now available for immediate production. "We are so excited and honored to be handling this terrific and innovative new American musical," said Samuel French, Inc. director of licensing development Brad Lohrenz in a statement.
"The musical was inspired by the documentary; it's not wholly faithful to it," librettist Wright told Playbill.com in a recent interview. "The demands of the stage are very different. As dramatists, we knew we needed to serve our own story and our chosen themes first. We saw the contest as a metaphor for the country in this particular historical moment; it tackles issues very present in the current culture, from the war over immigration policy to income equality and the slow erasure of the working class. We try to be true to the essential spirit of both the film and its subjects, but — first and foremost — we wanted to serve our own story."
Here's how the producers billed the fact-inspired new American musical: "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."
Neil Pepe (Speed-the-Plow and artistic director of Atlantic Theater Company) directed the production, which featured a Nissan "hardbody" pickup center-stage. The show was commissioned by La Jolla Playhouse (Christopher Ashley, artistic director & Michael S. Rosenberg, managing director), where it had its world premiere in 2012.