Brooks Atkinson Theatre, (3/21/2013 - 4/13/2013)

First Preview: Feb 23, 2013
Opening Date: Mar 21, 2013
Closing Date: Apr 13, 2013
Total Previews: 28
Total Performances: 28

Category: Musical, Original, Broadway

Opening Night Production Staff

Theatre Owned / Operated by The Nederlander Organization (James M. Nederlander: Chairman; James L. Nederlander: President)

Produced by Broadway Across America, Beth Williams, Barbara Whitman/Latitude Link, Dede Harris/Sharon Karmazin, Howard & Janet Kagan, John & Claire Caudwell, Rough Edged Souls, Joyce Primm Schweickert, Paula Black/Bruce Long and Off The Aisle Productions/Freitag-Mishkin; Associate Producer: David Carpenter

Originally produced by La Jolla Playhouse (Christopher Ashley: Artistic Director; Michael S. Rosenberg: Managing Director)

Book by Doug Wright; Music by Trey Anastasio and Amanda Green; Lyrics by Amanda Green; Based on a Film by S.R. Bindler; Musical Director: Carmel Dean; Music orchestrated by Trey Anastasio and Don Hart; Vocal arrangements by Carmel Dean

Directed by Neil Pepe; Musical Staging by Sergio Trujillo; Associate Choreographer: Lorin Latarro

Scenic Design by Christine Jones; Costume Design by Susan Hilferty; Lighting Design by Kevin Adams; Sound Design by Steve Canyon Kennedy; Make-Up Design by Jimmy Cortés; Associate Scenic Design: Brett Banakis; Associate Costume Design: Tricia Barsamian; Associate Lighting Design: Paul Toben; Associate Sound Design: Walter Trarbach

Executive Producer: Jennifer Costello; General Manager: Foresight Theatrical and Allan Williams; Company Manager: Cathy Kwon; Associate Co. Mgr: Daniel Hoyos

Production Manager: Juniper Street Productions; Production Stage Manager: Linda Marvel; Stage Manager: Matthew Stern

Conductor/Keyboard 1: Carmel Dean; Musical Coordinator: Michael Keller; Associate Conductor/Keyboard 2/Organ: Matt Gallagher; Guitar/Mandolin: Jon Herington; Guitar/Pedal Steel/Dobro: Skip Krevens; Bass: Skip Ward; Drums: Shannon Ford; Violin/Mandolin: Paul Woodiel; Cello: Jennifer Baxmeyer

Casting: Telsey + Company and Rachel Hoffman, CSA; Marketing: Type A Marketing; Press Representative: The Hartman Group; Advertising: Serino Coyne; Digital Outreach/Website/Video: Serino Coyne; Photographer: Chad Batka

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Opening Night Cast

Keith CarradineJD Drew
Allison CaseKelli Mangrum
Hunter FosterBenny Perkins
Jay Armstrong JohnsonGreg Wilhote
David LarsenChris Alvaro
Jacob Ming-TrentRonald McCowan
Kathleen Elizabeth MonteleoneHeather Stovall
Mary Gordon MurrayVirginia Drew
Jim NewmanMike Ferris
Connie RayCindy Barnes
Jon RuaJesus Peña
Keala SettleNorma Valverde
Dale SoulesJanis Curtis
Scott WakefieldFrank Nugent
William YoumansDon Curtis
Dr. Stokes

Standby: Kristoffer Cusick (Benny Perkins, Chris Alvaro, Greg Wilhote, Jesus Peña, Mike Ferris, Ronald McCowan), Rayanne Gonzales (Janis Curtis, Norma Valverde, Virginia Drew), David Jennings (Frank Nugent, Ronald McCowan), Janet Krupin (Heather Stovall, Kelli Mangrum), Corey Mach (Chris Alvaro, Greg Wilhote, Jesus Peña), Happy McPartlin (Cindy Barnes , Janis Curtis, Norma Valverde, Virginia Drew), Chelsea Packard (Cindy Barnes , Heather Stovall, Kelli Mangrum) and Bart Shatto (Benny Perkins, Don Curtis , Dr. Stokes, Frank Nugent, JD Drew, Mike Ferris)

Awards and Nominations

Tony Award®

 2013 Best Original Score Written for the Theatre [nominee] 

Music by Trey Anastasio and Amanda Green; Lyrics by Amanda Green

 2013 Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical [nominee] 

Keith Carradine

 2013 Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical [nominee] 

Keala Settle

Drama Desk Award

 2013 Outstanding Musical [nominee] 

Produced by Broadway Across America, Beth Williams, Barbara Whitman/Latitude Link, Dede Harris/Sharon Karmazin, Howard & Janet Kagan, John & Claire Caudwell, Rough Edged Souls, Joyce Primm Schweickert, Paula Black/Bruce Long and Off The Aisle Productions/Freitag-Mishkin

 2013 Outstanding Book of a Musical [nominee] 

Book by Doug Wright

 2013 Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical [nominee] 

Keith Carradine

 2013 Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical [nominee] 

Keala Settle

 2013 Outstanding Choreography [nominee] 

Musical Staging by Sergio Trujillo

 2013 Outstanding Orchestrations [nominee] 

Trey Anastasio

 2013 Outstanding Orchestrations [nominee] 

Don Hart

 2013 Outstanding Lyrics [nominee] 

Lyrics by Amanda Green

winner 2013 Outstanding Sound Design in a Musical [winner] 

Sound Design by Steve Canyon Kennedy

 2013 Outstanding Music [nominee] 

Music by Trey Anastasio and Amanda Green

Theatre World

winner 2013 Award [recipient] 

Keala Settle


music by Trey Anastasio and Amanda Green; lyrics by Amanda Green

Human Drama Kind of Thing
(music by Trey Anastasio and Amanda Green)
If I Had a Truck
Brothers in the Storm
A Little Something Something
My Problem Right There
Alone With Me
Burn That Bridge
I'm Gone
Joy of the Lord
Hunt with the Big Dogs
Hands on a Hardbody
Born in Laredo
Alone With Me (Reprise)
It's a Fix
Used to Be
It's a Fix (Reprise)
God Answered My Prayers
The Tryers
Joy of the Lord (Reprise)
Keep Your Hands on It


AP: "Musical 'Hands on a Hardbody' a tuneful, heart-filled ode to small towns and America"

If sales of Nissan pickup trucks tick up in the next few months, there may be an unlikely source: a Broadway musical.

“Hands on a Hardbody,” a seemingly far-fetched stage show based on a documentary that features songs co-written by Phish frontman Trey Anastasio, stars a modified Aztec red Nissan. By the end of the show, you’ll swear that truck can dance.

You might, too. Anastasio and Broadway veteran Amanda Green have written a soundtrack of mostly fine songs in a nice mix of styles — blues, gospel, country and honky-tonk — that will fire you right up.

Playwright Doug Wright has had some fun himself, the cast is committed and realistic, and the whole thing is a pleasing, tuneful, heart-filled ode to small towns and American dreams.

The musical that opened Thursday at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, following a stop at the La Jolla Playhouse, is based on S.R. Binder’s 1997 documentary about an endurance contest at an east Texas car dealership that offered a free pickup to whoever could keep a hand on it the longest.

The creative team behind the musical has taken some liberties with the story but has been faithful about the vehicle — it’s an engine-less Nissan truck frame.

Weighing 1,400 pounds, the truck rests on 16 casters and the 10 actors who play contestants whip the thing around using only elbow grease. The reluctance to use any Broadway trickery — yes, that’s you, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” — is commendable, keeping the story and actors true to their gritty roots.

Director Neil Pepe and Sergio Trujillo, who did musical staging, get full credit for making this show move delightfully despite the subject matter being an exhausting test of endurance — the show’s winner stood for 91 hours — and a hunk of metal in the middle of the stage.

How do they do it? Trujillo has his actors duck under each other’s arms, jump and dance on the spinning truck, make it the object of a tug-of-war and even bring the house down in a “Stomp”-like song in which the actors knock out a beat on the Nissan itself, turning it into a big drum.

The 15-character cast includes the nervous owners of the truck dealership and 10 down-on-their-luck guys and gals for whom the $22,000 truck represents a new chance. Or, as the somewhat clumsy first number argues, “It’s more than a contest/It’s more than dumb luck/It’s more than extra cash/It is much more than a truck!”

One contestant is a devout Latina, another a muscled war veteran and a third is a good ol’ boy whose wife has come along for support. There’s a pretty redhead and a flirtatious blonde. There’s also a “tough old bird with sun-burnished skin and missing teeth,” as the script suggests. By the end, you care about all of them.

Wright, who was born 120 miles from the site of the actual Texas contest in Longview, has written colorful, recognizable characters but finds their core decency. He also slips in some funny pop culture references to “Highlander” and “Friday Night Lights.”

Anastasio and Green thankfully haven’t given all 10 their own song to sing about their history and miseries. What they’ve done is pen 16 tunes that are nicely nestled in the story, which is, by definition, a sort of thriller.

The ostensible hero is played with hangdog appeal by Keith Carradine, but some of the other outstanding performances are by Keala Settle, who plays a woman whose infectious laugh in one scene lifts the show and who belts out “The Joy of the Lord” with a divine talent.

There’s also John Rua, playing a misunderstood Mexican-American who sings “Born in Laredo,” and Jacob Ming-Trent as a cocky but sweet guy whose “My Problem Right Here” is soulfully groovy. Even the evil guy in the bunch — Hunter Foster, taking a walk on the racist, slimy side — gets to strut with “Hunt With the Big Dog.”

Fans of Phish will hear the familiar twang and blues from their beloved jam band, but they’ll also get a surprisingly good smattering of gospel, soul and Broadway belting.

Green, also in charge of lyrics, has some that stick — “You’re fighting for your breath/Right from the moment of your birth!” — and some that don’t — “Like the great Ali did/When he changed his name from Cassius/Everybody’s hoping to rise/Once more from the ashes!”

When Anastasio and Green are cooking, you get the standouts “Used to Be,” a paean to mom-and-pop America, the sexy “Burn That Bridge” and the rousing ensemble number “If I Had This Truck.” But even when they don’t — the thin “I’m Gone” — it’s better than a lot of songs in other theaters right now.

Set designer Christine Jones has got dreary used-car lot down, including the sad plastic fringe. The highlight of her set is that big steel pickup, with its heft and bulk. It never looks adorable, especially with Kevin Adams’ appropriately harsh summer Texas lighting.

The funny thing? Nissan hasn’t advertised in the show’s Playbill. Just Lincoln and Lexus.


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