Entertainment » Music

Hands on A Hardbody - Original Broadway Cast Recording

by Steven Bergman
Contributor
Friday Aug 30, 2013
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The majority of Broadway musicals these days are fantastical tales meant to allow us to spend 2-3 hours forgetting about the outside world and its trials and tribulations; their stories submerge us in the fictional world of characters whose adventures remove us from any thought of bills, family, shelter, and how much we are spending for that privilege.

"Hands on a Hardbody" is an exception. Here’s a show created to be a mirror of a large portion of our society during these years following the 2008 recession. The musical tells the story of an annual contest in Longview, Texas, where 10 people are given the opportunity to win a brand new truck (a "hardbody"), if they are the last person standing with their hand on the vehicle. A publicity stunt for local sponsors, the truck represents a different reward for the participants: from the money to pay a debt, to a status symbol for the insecure.

Based on a 1997 documentary of the same name, the show has been updated to the present, with an energetic ensemble headed by Keith Carradine ("Will Rogers Follies"), Hunter Foster ("Urinetown," "Bunheads") and the belting pipes of Keala Settle. The decidedly "American" sound has been created by Broadway veteran Amanda Green, and in his Broadway debut, Trey Anastasio (Phish). The songs are a seamless crossover of country, western, and the pop/country hybrid that has saturated the radio stations outside of the urban centers of the country.

Highlights included the opener, a "jam band-type" song titled, "Human Drama Kind of Thing," where the cocky Benny Perkins (Foster) introduces us to the concept and the characters. Foster also gets the 11 o’clock number, "God Answered My Prayers," where Benny finally understands his obsession with this contest. "Joy to the Lord" lets Settle lead the cast in a high-powered gospel number, and "Stronger" (passionately performed by David Larsen) speaks to the evergrowing contingent of our citizenry that have been affected by our country’s armed conflicts this century.

The production only ran three weeks at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre (after four weeks of previews), most likely demonstrating that Broadway audiences are not prepared to embrace a musical based in true reality, but this cast recording should provide the reference source to inspire theaters to produce this tale in the future.

"Hands on a Hardbody"
Trey Anastasio / Amanda Green
CD and digital formats
Ghostlight Records

Steven Bergman is a Composer / Playwright / Performing Arts Educator based outside of Boston, MA.

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