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'Hands on a Hardbody' drives to Broadway from La Jolla

May 29, 2012|By Chris Barton
  • David Larsen's Iraq war veteran hopes to win a truck by keeping a hand on the vehicle the longest.
David Larsen's Iraq war veteran hopes to win a truck by keeping a hand… (Kevin Berne )

Perhaps proving that time and tastes may change, but dreams of a free car are forever, the musical "Hands on a Hardbody" will make the leap from the West Coast to Broadway for the 2012-13 season.

The La Jolla Playhouse production, which is based on S.R. Bindler and Kevin Morris’ 1997 documentary of the same name, opened on May 12. It features a book by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Doug Wright of "I Am My Own Wife." The musical is directed by Neil Pepe, who also directed "Speed-the-Plow" on Broadway in 2008, and in an additional bit of crossover appeal, features genre-hopping music by Phish guitarist Trey Anastacio and "Bring It On: The Musical's" Amanda Green.

The story of a strange real-life endurance contest staged by a Texas car dealership, "Hands on a Hardbody" follows 10 contestants through a war of attrition in pursuit of a new pickup truck based on their ability to satisfy the contest's rules (spelled out in the musical's title).

In his review, Times critic Charles McNulty described "Hands on a Hardbody" as "a Red State musical that Blue State audiences won't hate themselves for enjoying." McNulty went on to compare the production to the Broadway hit "Once," adding: "It's a relief to encounter a musical that isn't afraid to follow its own idiosyncratic vision."

Citing a few flaws in pacing, McNulty also sounded a bit prescient in his May 15 review. "This 'Hardbody' could still use an overhaul," he wrote. "But I wouldn't be surprised to find it parked on Broadway in the not-too-distant future."

"Hands on a Hardbody" is at the La Jolla Playhouse until June 17. Dates and casting for the Broadway production are still to come.

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