April 5, 2013

5 Great Things About Hands on a Hardbody

Brooks Atkinson Theatre
3/2/13 matinee

Synopsis: Hands on a Hardbody is based on the 1997 documentary about a group of down-on-their-luck Texans who enter the ultimate competition of endurance. The contestant who is able to stay standing with his or her hand on a shiny, new Nissan truck for the longest amount of time will take that truck home! The musical introduces ten contestants with very different backgrounds and life experiences, some based on real-life contestants from the documentary and some fictional.  Each character reveals his or her story to the other contestants, and in doing so, embarks on a physical and spiritual journey. And while there is only one winner (no spoilers), every contestant takes something special away from the competition and becomes a stronger person for having participated in the contest. 

5 Great Things About Hands on a Hardbody

1.) The Timing. Everyone knows that timing is critical to the success of a Broadway musical. I would argue that Hands on a Hardbody has impeccable timing and this is why. This musical depicts the lives of ten very heterogenous and very real people. The ten actors on stage, who could easily be mistaken for members of the audience, appear no different than the people you might pass by on the street. There are no flashy costumes or lion puppets or flying witches or dancing ensembles. They are simply ten down-on-their-luck Texans, not unlike many real-life Americans who are currently struggling with economical and financial hardships and the effects of war. Given the current economic climate, I think this story could really strike a chord with people because the story is true to the times and the characters are real and relatable. 

2.) The Truck.  The truck (named Layla) is its own unique entity on the stage, a separate character and the star of the show. After all, everything- the story, the choreography, the music- revolves around the truck. Gliding gracefully across the stage, the truck is seamlessly incorporated into Sergio Trujillo’s clever, inventive choreography. To envision choreography in which each actor must keep one hand on the truck at all times is an impressive feat, and for that reason alone, this show is something to see. 

3.) An Original Concept. With all the shows on Broadway, why did I choose to spend my Saturday afternoon at this particular show? Because the concept of ten contestants who vie to be the last person with their hands on a hardbody is, well, unique, and elicits curiosity. The concept is not something you see every day on Broadway and what theatre fan doesn’t crave subject matters that are new and fresh? And I promise you, this original concept does not disappoint. 

4.) The Characters. Hands on a Hardbody portrays ten very unique characters, some of whom are quite endearing, while others are a bit eccentric. Listening to the dialogue between these characters and watching them interact with each other on stage can be quite hilarious to say the least. I still crack up when I think of Janis’ husband sitting on the sidelines wearing a cardboard sign-hat and sipping a “Big Gulp”, while cheering on his wife. Anyway, these characters are sure to give you lots of “laugh out loud” moments. 

5.) The Music. Hands on a Hardbody offers a solid score by Trey Anastasio and Amanda Green. The score primarily has a country and rock “feel” to it with some powerful ballads and an outstanding gospel number performed by Keala Settle. And as I stated earlier, the integration of the truck into the music and choreography is most impressive and enjoyable to watch. 

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