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"A fresh and invigorating experience. Go see Hands on a Hardbody now!"
— Chris Gibson, BroadwayWorld
"The surprise hit of the year. There’s something in it for everyone."
— Kevin Brackett, ReviewSTL
"Regional theatre gold. . .it’s easy to enjoy a production featuring
so many of the top voices in the St. Louis theatre scene today."
— Jeff Ritter, The Trades
"A must-see. You might not have heard of this show, but you definitely won't forget it."
— Lynn Venhaus, Belleville News-Democrat
"Brilliant and captivating. . . exhilarating." — Mark Bretz, Ladue News
"An emotionally compelling show that pays tribute to the resilient spirit of the American people."
Tina Farmer, KDHX
Everything you thought you knew,
Leave that all behind.
Just keep one hand on the truck
And try not to lose your mind.
This is not a child's game –
This is not a game of chance –
It's a sharp honed skill,
It's a test of will,
It's keepin' still,
When the devil tells you, "Dance!"
— Benny Perkins, Hands on a Hardbody
New Line closed its 23rd season with the American regional premiere — the very first production since its Broadway run — of HANDS ON A HARDBODY, the thrilling, powerfully emotional new musical featuring a country-rock-pop score by Trey Anastasio (frontman for the rock band Phish) and Amanda Green (High Fidelity, Bring It On), and a script by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Doug Wright.
The New Line cast included Todd Schaefer (JD Drew), Jeffrey M. Wright (Benny Perkins), Rey Arceno (Jesus Peña), Mike Dowdy (Mike Ferris), Cindy Duggan (Janis Curtis), Zachary Allen Farmer (Frank Nugent), Ryan Foizey (Greg Wilhote), Alison Helmer (Virginia Drew), Marshall Jennings (Ronald McCowan), Taylor Pietz (Heather Stovall), Anna Skidis (Norma Valverde), Margeau Baue Steinau (Cindy Barnes), Luke Steingruby (Chris Alvaro), Keith Thompson (Don Curtis), and Marcy Wiegert (Kelli Mangrum). The show was directed by Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy, with scenic design by Rob Lippert, lighting design by Kenneth Zinkl, costume design by Sarah Porter and Marcy Wiegert, and sound design by Kerrie Mondy.
This unique new musical is based on the acclaimed 1997 documentary of the same name, about an annual contest at a Texas truck dealership, where ten hard-luck Texans compete for a new hardbody truck. A new lease on life is so close each of them can touch it, and now for once, their fate is in their hands. Under a scorching sun, over the next 91 hours they will laugh, cry and push their bodies and minds to the limits, as they fight to keep at least one hand on a brand new truck. The contestant with the most nerve and endurance will drive away with the American Dream.
Featuring a catchy combination of rhythm and blues, rockabilly, gospel, rock and roll, and country songs, Hands on a Hardbody is a peek into the lives of everyday, ordinary Americans, struggling to survive against the backdrop of a broken and beaten American middle class and working class. The New York Times said, "The score ranges from gospel to blues to country to slightly rougher-edged rock. None of it sounds like traditional show music: think Mumford and Sons, not Rodgers and Hammerstein."
The New York Times also said, “You can hear the sound of America singing in Hands on a Hardbody, the daring new musical. . . With a bravado to match the gumption of its characters, this new show drives onto the Broadway lot without the high-gloss blandishments that adorn most big musicals. Instead it concentrates its energies on giving voice to a story of average people fighting to hold onto hope in the face of fierce economic headwinds and bad breaks, not to mention buckling knees.” The Times went on, “This scrappy, sincere new musical brings a fresh, handmade feeling to Broadway, which mostly traffics in the machine tooled. Burrowing into the troubled hearts of its characters, it draws a clear-eyed portrait of an America that's a far cry from the fantasyland of most commercial musicals.” The Wall Street Journal called the show "completely, satisfyingly right!" New York Magazine said, "Hands down, it's musical theatre heaven!"
to explore more? We recommend:
The original cast album of the show
The original 1997 documentary, Hands on a Hard Body
Artistic director Scott Miller's background and analysis essay
The official website for the Broadway production
The official Hands on a Hardbody YouTube channel
The Break a Leg radio interview with Amanda Green about the show
The official website for the documentary
Some interesting books on the economics of the period in which the Hardbody documentary is set, including America: What Went Wrong?; The Politics of Rich and Poor: Wealth and the American Electorate in the Reagan Aftermath; and Boiling Point: Democrats, Republicans, and the Decline of Middle-Class Prosperity