TX Premiere of Hands on a Hardbody Rearranged, Changed and Shut Down; Amanda Green Responds

By Michael Gioia
20 Jun 2014

Amanda Green
Amanda Green
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Amanda Green, who received a Tony nomination for the original score of the Texas-set musical Hands on a Hardbody, attended the show's Texas premiere — to find out the entire piece had been rearranged, reconceived and changed without any of the writers' consent or knowledge. Licensing company Samuel French called the musical's car contest off.

"He basically used the show as puzzle pieces to rearrange," Green, who was personally invited to the June 12 opening at TUTS Underground, explained to Playbill.com via phone. Green, who made her way to Houston ("on my own dime," she confessed) for the show, also attended the production's press meet-and-greet and was told by TUTS artistic director Bruce Lumpkin, "I'm so looking forward to you seeing the show."

Green, also a lyricist for Broadway's Bring It On: The Musical and High Fidelity, attended with her husband and Jennifer Costello, an executive producer for Hardbody's Broadway bow.

"Immediately, in the beginning, [director Lumpkin] began in a new way with an actor saying the character's names out loud, and I [thought], 'Oh, that's odd.' And then people started singing, and I was like, 'Oh, that's not his solo. That's his solo,'" she explained. "The long and the short of it is that he moved dialogue from one act to another, he moved three songs at the end of the first act to the middle of the second act — and two songs that were in the middle of the second act into the first act — so that two contestants who leave in the middle of the second act now left in the middle of the first act… It was just baffling. He cut a lot of music — all the interstitial music that [composer] Trey Anastasio had written. It was a wholesale chop-job… I felt like I was in a dream!"



Hands on a Hardbody, the original Broadway musical based on a real-life competition in which ten determined Texans hold onto a truck in hopes of taking it home, was strategically written, Green explained, so that the eliminations prompt specific musical moments.

"If I Had This Truck," a expository moment at the top of Hardbody that introduced each character — as well as their wants and needs — was now ending the show's first act; and "Hunt With the Big Dogs," the high-energy, first-act finale was somewhere amidst the show's second half.

Green said, "He made many, many artistic decisions that had nothing to do with what we had written, and I think he thought he was improving it."

After the Tony nominee had sat through the show's entirety, Lumpkin put Green in a "very uncomfortable position," she admitted, by stating, "You've got to admit, it works better."

When she asked him why he did not approach her, book writer Doug Wright and composer Trey Anastasio to ask if the material could be changed, Lumpkin responded, "Because I knew you would say no."

Green informed Playbill.com that licensing company Samuel French sent a cease and desist letter to TUTS, demanding that the remaining shows, which were to run through June 22, be cancelled.

"The Dramatists Guild has worked hard to protect authors' rights, and unlike in TV or film — where you expect that the director or editor will change things or remove things at will — theatre is a place where writers can go and have their work done as they intended it," said Green on the importance of copyright. "We don't get a lot of money for what we do, but we do get that kind of control, and we worked really hard, and it's clearly stated that you're not allowed to change anything… We put so much thought and time into it. We're working up to a [Broadway] opening night of a show — and so much writing and rewriting and thought has gone into it — [and] the show that we put out to the world on license is the show we want done."

On a lighter note, Green said, "I saw a delightful production [of Hands on a Hardbody] at New Line Theatre in St. Louis! They did it as written, and it was terrific, and the audiences loved it. It got ten rave reviews, so it certainly can work in the form we wrote it, and it's being done at the Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre in Colorado, and they've been in touch with me and they [said], 'We're doing your show just like you wrote it, and we love it!'"

TUTS executives declined Playbill.com's request for comment.