When the chance at the American Dream presents itself in a small Texas town, its residents will fight to be the ones to get it. The 2013 musical about a Texas “Hands on a Hardbody” contest—in which contestants keep their hands on a brand new pickup truck in attempt to outlast one another and win the car—centers on community, personal hardships, ambition, and unity in the face of turmoil.
With a book by Doug Wright, music by Trey Anastasio, and music and lyrics by Amanda Green, Hands on a Hardbody is based on the documentary of the same name and premiered at the La Jolla Playhouse ahead of 2013 premiere on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. Directed by Neil Pepe, the Broadway run was short-lived but still garnered three Tony nominations (Best Original Score, Best Featured Actor in a Musical for Keith Carradine, and Best Featured Actress in a Musical for Keala Settle) and took the careers of some of its stars to the next level.
Here’s what the cast is up to now.
Keith Carradine, JD Drew
An established Broadway name before Hardbody, the actor did earn a Tony nomination for his role as JD. Carradine starred in the 2015 City Center Encores! production of Lerner and Loewe’s Paint Your Wagon as Ben Rumson alongside co-star Alexandra Socha. While Carradine hasn’t been on the Main Stem stage since then, he’s been a constant in a number of television shows including Fargo, Madam Secretary, and The Big Bang Theory.
Allison Case, Kelli Mangrum
Following her role as Kelli, Case starred as Miss Honey in Matilda the Musical for nearly a year. She appeared Off-Broadway in the acclaimed Playwrights Horizon production Fly By Night: A New Musical in 2014. In 2016, Case appeared in a reading of Welcome to Shoofly with LaVon Fisher-Wilson also at Playwrights Horizons. Since 2016, Case has played the role of Young Sister Mary in the HBO television series The Young Pope, and appeared in Netflix’s The Sinner.
Hunter Foster, Benny Perkins
After Foster played Benny in Hardbody, he appeared as Bud in The Bridges of Madison County in 2014 alongside Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale. Foster was the titular character in The Music Man at Muny in 2016, and starred in Sylvia in 2017 alongside his wife, Jennifer Cody. Foster has taken a turn to directing in recent years, and helmed regional performances of Guys and Dolls, Million Dollar Quartet, and Far from the Madding Crowd. He also wrote the book for The Circus in Winter, which premiered at the Norma Terris Theatre in Connecticut in 2014. Most recently, Foster directed the acclaimed Off-Broadway production of The Other Josh Cohen, and this past December, was named the artistic director at the Redhouse Arts Center.
Jay Armstrong Johnson, Greg Wilhote
Hardbody marked Johnson’s first full-time principal role on Broadway. After Hardbody, Johnson originated the role of Chip in the 2014 revival of On the Town. Armstrong has been involved in a number of cabaret and concerts, including The Jonathan Larson Project this past October, Teen Angst: A Musical Revue with students from the Long Island Musical Theatre Festival last July, and I Put A Spell On You: The Return of the Sanderson Sisters!, a spoof of Disney’s Hocus Pocus for the Halloween season. He starred as Bobby in A Chorus Line at New York City Center, marking the institution’s 75th anniversary and currently plays Raoul in Broadway’s The Phantom of the Opera.
Jacob Ming-Trent, Ronald McCowan
While Ming-Trent hasn’t yet returned to the Main Stem since Hands on a Hardbody, he has shifted into the world of television. He appeared in Feed the Beast, White Famous, and Big Easy, and most recently, the upcoming Watchmen series. He was also in the Off-Broadway revival of Mother Courage and Her Children in 2016.
Jon Rua, Jesus Pena
Having made his debut in In The Heights, Hardbody marked Rua’s breakout. Following his run as Jesus in Hands on a Hardbody, Rua appeared in the acclaimed cast of Hamilton in 2015 as the original Charles Lee and as the understudy for Alexander Hamilton. He then took on a number of original roles in SpongeBob Squarepants, including Patchy the Pirate, and co-choreographed the number “Believe” in The Cher Show, currently on Broadway. Rua was featured in a musical web series entitled Rachel Unraveled, and spearheaded his own short dance film called LoveFound, a tribute to Hamilton and its boundless influences. He was the associate choreographer to Christopher Gattelli for the Rebel Wilson-led rom com Isn’t It Romantic and continues to create dance via T.H.E Grit. He is also set to choreograph West Side Story at Milwaukee Rep, which bows August 2019.
Keala Settle, Norma Valverde
Though Settle had already made her Broadway debut in Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Broadway took note when she originated this principal role. After her Tony-nominated run as Norma, Settle originated the role of Madame Thénardier in the 2014 revival of Les Misérables on Broadway, and the character Becky in Waitress. Settle starred with Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman as the Bearded Lady Lettie Lutz, and performed the beautiful original song “This Is Me,” which she sang at the Oscars in 2017. She recently appeared in Fox’s Rent: Live as the “Season of Love” soloist, Mrs. Davis, and others, and just wrapped filming American Reject. Jackman also announced that Settle would be a guest at some of his upcoming concert tour dates.
Dale Soules, Janis Cutis
Immediately following her run as Janis in Hands on a Hardbody, Soules starred in the world premiere of The Capables in 2013 at The Kindling Theatre Company. She later appeared in the Transport Group production of I Remember Mama in 2014, as well as in the Off-Broadway Shows for Days in 2015, starring Patti LuPone and Michael Urie. Soules notably played Frieda Berlin in Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black for four years.
Kathleen Elizabeth Monteleone, Heather Stovall
Hands on a Hardbody marked Monteleone’s Broadway debut, and while she hasn’t returned to the Broadway stage yet, she has certainly kept busy. She’s made appearances in TV series such as The Battery’s Down, Good Behavior, and Avenues, as well as the TV movie Goatface. She recently wrapped up production on her film American Reject, which she wrote and stars in alongside Annaleigh Ashford and fellow Hardbody alum Keala Settle, about her experience as a contestant on NBC’s Grease: You’re the One That I Want!
David Larsen, Chris Alvaro
Before his turn in Hands on a Hardbody, Larsen starred in Broadway’s Good Vibrations as Bobby, in the ensemble of Billy Elliot, and in American Idiot as Tunny. Post Hardbody, Larsen starred as Elder Price in the tour of Book of Mormon, starting in 2014. He also came together with fellow actors Eric Gutman, Brandon Wardell, and Shonn Wiley to form Under the Streetlamp, a quartet that sings and dances their way through some of Motown and old-time rock and roll’s greatest hits.
The covers for this show have continued to trod the boards, as well. Kristoffer Cusick performed in First Date, replaced in If/Then beginning in 2014, and has since moved towards directing with productions like School of Rock – The Musical (resident director) and The Boys in the Band (associate director). David Jennings most recently appeared in the 2017 revival of Once On This Island. Rayanne Gonzalez appeared in The Sound of Music Live! and Janet Krupin appeared in the cast of If/Then. Corey Mach has graced the stage at Kinky Boots, Off-Broadway in Invisible Thread, and founded the Broadway Sings concert series. Chelsea Packard has appeared in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Bart Shatto replaced in War Paint.