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Trey Anastasio Talks Musicals And Hardbodies

The cast in rehearsal for La Jolla Playhouse’s world-premiere, commissioned m...

Credit: Dana Holliday

Above: The cast in rehearsal for La Jolla Playhouse’s world-premiere, commissioned musical "Hands on a Hardbody," featuring original music by Trey Anastasio and Amanda Green.

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What would you do to get a brand spankin' new shiny hard body truck absolutely free? Would you line up before dawn? Answer a question on the radio? Or would you stand with one hand on the truck for as long as it took to win it?

That last endurance test is at the heart of a new world-premiere musical opening this weekend at the La Jolla Playhouse. "Hands on a Hardbody" is based on an award-winning documentary about a real annual contest held in an auto dealership in Texas where contestants stand for hours on end with just one gloved hand placed on a pickup truck. The film shows how desire and determination can take its toll on the human body as participants push themselves beyond their comfort zone, suffer sleep deprivation and experience a range of emotions. Whoever can keep their hand on the truck the longest (and without leaning or squatting) will drive home a winner.

For its newest production, the Playhouse has brought together a varied group of talented collaborators to turn the documentary into a dynamic musical. The original score is co-composed by songwriter Amanda Green (who also wrote the lyrics) and Trey Anastasio, singer, guitarist and founding member of the rock band Phish. Pulitzer Prize-winner Doug Wright ("I Am My Own Wife") wrote the book and choreographer Benjamin Millepied ("Black Swan") orchestrated the dance numbers.

Although this is Anastasio's first time writing a musical score, he is no stranger to the theater world. Fans of the famed rocker may be surprised to learn that he is a big fan of musical theater. He shares in a recent interview with Rolling Stone that he grew up going to musicals and that as a child at home, "there were always soundtrack albums playing. Lots of Stephen Sondheim, 'West Side Story', 'Hair' and other shows."

KPBS Midday Edition speaks with Trey Anastasio and Amanda Green about the creative process behind writing a score for this new American musical where much of the characters' action involves standing still.

"Hands on a Hardbody" opens April 27 and runs through June 17 at the La Jolla Playhouse. For more information, visit

Audiences can see the documentary, which captures the 1995 contest that lasted 77 straight hours, at a special free screening co-presented by the Playhouse and ArtPower! at UCSD on Tuesday, May 1 at UCSD's Price Center Theater. (Plus filmmaker S.R. Bindler will be on hand for a post-screening Q&A.)

"Hands on a Hard Body" Documentary Trailer

The award-winning documentary "Hands on a Hard Body" (1997) is the inspiration for the La Jolla Playhouse's new musical of the same title.


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