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Hands On A Hardbody’ Heads To Broadway

(L-R) Jay Armstrong Johnson, Keala Settle, Hunter Foster and Keith Carradine ...

Above: (L-R) Jay Armstrong Johnson, Keala Settle, Hunter Foster and Keith Carradine in La Jolla Playhouse’s world-premiere, commissioned musical HANDS ON A HARDBODY. The production runs April 27 - June 17 in the Mandell Weiss Theatre; photo by Kevin Berne.

Another locally grown play is headed to Broadway!

"Hands on a Hardbody" takes an unlikely subject, a Texas endurance contest to win a truck, and turns it into a musical with the help of an accomplished creative team, including jam band legend (Phish) Trey Anastasio, who served as composer along with lyricist Amanda Green.

We interviewed Anastasio and Green on KPBS' Midday Edition in early May before the play opened.

The La Jolla Playhouse helped launch "Hands on a Hardbody," having commissioned the musical, developed it through a series of readings and workshops and mounted its world premiere, which runs through June 17.

Christopher Ashley, Playhouse artistic director, told U-T San Diego the success of "Hardbody" can be attributed, in part, to the theater's dramaturgical staff who assisted the creative team through development.

Ashley added: "And also, our audiences are really adventurous. Audiences at La Jolla Playhouse now have seen so many premiere plays and musicals, and have seen so many readings and workshops and Page to Stage (developmental projects), that they're now incredibly educated. They're really an audience that artists are excited to premiere their work in front of."

The musical's story is based on a documentary of the same name about a contest at a Nissan dealership in Texas where participants had to stand with at least one hand on a truck for hours on end. The last person standing won the truck.

The creative team is stacked with impressive bios beyond Anastasio and Green ("High Fidelity," "Bring It On: The Musical"), including Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Doug Wright ("I Am My Own Wife') wrote the book, Neil Pepe (Broadway revival of "Speed-the-Plow") directed and Benjamin Millepied ("Black Swan") did the musical staging and choreography.

The La Jolla Playhouse has created 23 stage works that have gone on to Broadway.

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