Why ‘Hands on a Hardbody’, scheduled to drive out of the Brooks Atkinson Theatre on Saturday, deserved a chance

Jay Armstrong Johnson and Allison Case in "Hands on a Hardbody."

Jay Armstrong Johnson and Allison Case in “Hands on a Hardbody.”

The news that Hands on a Hardbody is closing on Saturday hit me like a ten-ton truck.

Of all the new shows to open on Broadway this spring only one captivated and turned me into a passionate fan even before I stepped into the theatre.

There was something about the real-life story of people striving to achieve their own American dream that touched me in a profound way.

I remember watching the video filmed by Broadway.com in which they interviewed several of the real-life people who traveled to New York City, a place most had never been before, to see their story told for hundreds of people. Although I’m not one to cry often, especially over an interview, my cheeks were wet with tears and my heart was bursting by the time the video ended.

Something about the hope and joy on those people’s faces to see someone immensely talented being so respectful and excited to portray their stories gripped me and confirmed what I had known all along – nothing on Broadway is quite like that shiny red truck known as “Layla.”

Admittedly I was reluctant to fall in love with Hands on a Hardbody because its arrival on Broadway meant my favorite play, Peter and the Starcatcher, was forced to find a new home but as I watched videos, read up on the story the musical was based on, and rekindled my love for the cast of the Hair revival, I couldn’t stop myself from naming it my favorite show of the season.

The cast of "Hands on a Hardbody."

The cast of “Hands on a Hardbody.”

But beyond my years of supporting the careers of its leading actors, in particular Allison Case, Jay Armstrong Johnson and Hunter Foster, the musical was a breath of fresh air amidst other new shows based on blockbuster films, novels and shiny products.

Not to say shows that use glitz and glamor to engage its audiences are less than those that use the human condition and raw emotion but if people don’t support original theatre and shows that go against the grain Broadway will inevitably become a byproduct of Hollywood sensationalism.

Something special about Hands on a Hardbody that doesn’t seem quite as strong with other new musicals is the cast participation. Whether they were filming silly rap videos, hosting concerts and contests or communicating with fans through spirited tweets, the Hands on the Hardbody ensemble easily earned the title as one of the most interactive and engaged. There was never any question that they loved the story they were telling as much as their fans did, if not even more.

Hands on a Hardbody opened as the underdog and it closes in a similar fashion.

Those brave and smart enough to open their mind to a new story and experienced the musical are no doubt better off because of it. And here’s hoping the next time something new arrives on Broadway that isn’t a revival or based on something shiny from Hollywood that people actually take a chance on it.

For fans like myself who just weren’t able to make it into the city to catch a performance in time (my plans of catching it in May are obviously now dashed) here’s to hoping that the ensemble keeps the story alive and heads into the studio for a Hands on a Hardbody cast recording.

The musical will have played a total of 56 performances, 28 regular performances and 28 previews, at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre when it closes on Saturday, April 13. Support the cast and allow yourself to be part of the musical’s final days by purchasing tickets on their website

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About Samantha S.

"I found the theatre and I found my home.” ― Audra McDonald
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2 Responses

  1. As someone who saw it, the choreography was very exciting. Being truck-centric made the dancing and movement even more inventive rather than less so. For a few magical moments I felt like I was right back in a TX parking lot with the sun beating down.

  2. I was waiting anxiously to see this, as well. The storyline itself is what made it so appealing…the entire cast revolving all blocking, musical numbers and choreography around a truck? Nothing like that had obviously been done before, and it would have been a thrill (or a wild ride…pun intended) to see onstage. I am just as much a fan of classical musical as anyone (with Cinderella being number one on my bucket list right now), but with such a promising cast, a rare staging opportunity, and a solid backstory behind it this show was up there for me, as well. Looking forward to (hopefully) a cast recording.