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Hands On A Hardbody’ Opens On 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.

When "Hands on a Hardbody" opened at the La Jolla Playhouse last year, the centerpiece on stage was a blue pickup truck. When the curtains part on Broadway tonight, there will also be a truck. Only this time, it will be bright red.

The play “Hands on a Hardbody” was born at the La Jolla Playhouse. Tonight it opens on Broadway. But the musical about a Texas endurance contest to win a truck has gone through some changes.

More significant changes have also been made to the musical based on a 1997 documentary of the same name. Songs have been moved around, and the play is 20 minutes shorter. What hasn’t changed is the cast. Playhouse managing director Michael Rosenberg is in New York for the opening.

"In my experience this never happens," he said. "The entire cast from La Jolla came to New York and is opening on Broadway. It’s really exciting."

"Hardbody" will have its Broadway run at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre in Manhattan. The inventive "Peter and the Starcatcher," a former Playhouse Page To Stage production and Tony Award winner, also played there recently.

"Hands on a Hardbody" is about a group of Texans who compete in an endurance contest to win a truck. Phish frontman Trey Anastasio composed the music and playwright Doug Wright ("I Am My Own Wife") wrote the book. KPBS Midday Edition interviewed Anastasio and lyricist Amanda Green last year before the show opened in La Jolla.

Rosenberg says getting to Broadway is no easy feat. It means competing with the best in theater from throughout the country.

"It’s hard to get a show here," he said. "That old saying, 'If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere' is true."

"Hands on a Hardbody" is the 24th play the La Jolla Playhouse has sent to Broadway. The Playhouse receives a royalty for projects that go on to have a commercial production.

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