The new American musical Hands on a Hardbody oepned last night, March 21, at Broadway's Brooks Atkinson Theatre.
Inspired by true events and based on the acclaimed 1997 documentary of the same name that was created by S.R. Bindler and produced by Bindler and Kevin Morris, the musical features a book by Doug Wright (Pulitzer Prize winner, I Am My Own Wife), lyrics by Amanda Green (Bring It On: The Musical), music by Trey Anastasio (Phish) and Amanda Green, direction by Neil Pepe (Broadway's Speed-The-Plow), and musical staging by Sergio Trujillo (Memphis, Jersey Boys).
The Broadway production will feature the full cast from the La Jolla Playhouse engagement: Keith Carradine (Tony Award nominee, The Will Rogers Follies), Allison Case (Hair), Hunter Foster (Tony Award nominee, Little Shop of Horrors), Jay Armstrong Johnson (Catch Me If You Can), David Larsen (American Idiot), Jacob Ming-Trent (Shrek The Musical), Kathleen Elizabeth Monteleone (Tales of the City), Mary GorDon Murray (Into The Woods), Jim Newman (Curtains), Connie Ray (Next Fall), Jon Rua (In The Heights), Keala Settle (Priscilla Queen of the Desert), Dale Soules (Hair), Scott Wakefield (Ring of Fire), and William Youmans (Wicked).
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Charles Isherwood, The New York Times: Although it's far from fully loaded in a conventional sense, this scrappy, sincere new musical brings a fresh, handmade feeling to Broadway, which mostly traffics in the machine tooled. (Last year's Tony winner "Once" was a notable exception.) Burrowing into the troubled hearts of its characters, it draws a cleareyed portrait of an America that's a far cry from the fantasyland of most commercial musicals. "Hands on a Hardbody" simply sings forth a story of endurance, hardship and the dimming American dream, which increasingly seems to hover on the distant horizon like some last-ditch motel whose neon lights are blinking out one by one.
Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: "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.
Elysa Gardner, USA Today: Indeed, it's seldom the case that an original musical can list its score among its biggest assets; but co-composers Anastasio, a founding member of the genre-bending rock band Phish, and Green have crafted some infectious and even moving numbers. Veering from funk grooves to country twang, from gospel-kissed production numbers to catchy power ballads, the songs can border on the banal, but they rarely bore.
Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg News: There's nothing unlikable about "Hands on a Hardbody," but little to love, either.
Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal: Broadway has been sorely in need of a new musical that touches the heart without insulting the intelligence. Now it's got one. "Hands on a Hardbody," in which 10 cash-strapped Texans take part in an endurance contest whose winner will drive home a brand-new pickup truck, is a deeply felt, emotionally true portrait of recession-era American life. The show's unlikely-sounding premise-each of the contestants must keep one hand on the truck until they either give up or collapse-ends up being the occasion for an evening that is by turns festive and thought-provokingly dark. Think "Once," only with a much better score.
Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: Loaded with a cabful of fine performers, this song-laced lament about surviving hard times offers a decent ride. So much so that you wish it were better, tighter and carried a more affecting payoff. As is, it's a bit of a missed opportunity.