Broadway

'Hands on a Hardbody' Bows Out on Broadway

After dividing critics and failing to find a New York audience, the country-rock heartland musical will play its final performance on April 13.

NEW YORK -- Mirroring the tough-luck lives portrayed in Hands on a Hardbody, the economics of Broadway proved too unforgiving for the show, which has posted a closing notice for Saturday, April 13.

Based on the 1997 documentary by S.R. Bindler, the musical has a book by Pulitzer winner Doug Wright (I Am My Own Wife), lyrics by Amanda Green and an original score co-written by Phish frontman Trey Anastasio and Green. Neil Pepe directed the production, with an ensemble cast led by Keith Carradine and Hunter Foster.

Like the film, the show chronicles an endurance contest held by an East Texas Nissan dealership, in which blue-collar locals compete to see who can remain standing with their hands planted on a brand new pickup truck long enough to take the vehicle home.

Hardbody opened on Broadway March 21 after a tryout run last year at La Jolla Playhouse in California; it will have played 28 previews and the same number of regular performances by the time it closes at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. That brief run, however, does allow the show to be eligible for consideration in this year's Tony Awards.

Reviews were mixed to positive, with many critics praising the flavorful score and the relative anomaly of a show that deals with the hopes and hardships of real Americans.

"This scrappy, sincere new musical brings a fresh, handmade feeling to Broadway, which mostly traffics in the machine tooled," wrote Charles Isherwood in The New York Times. "Burrowing into the troubled hearts of its characters, it draws a clear-eyed portrait of an America that's a far cry from the fantasyland of most commercial musicals."

But despite some critical support, the production's best-grossing week was a modest $321,000, with other weeks coming in well under that figure. New productions including Kinky Boots, Matilda, Motown: The Musical and the revival of Pippin have been playing to near-capacity audiences, making it more difficult to gain a foothold in the crowded spring marketplace.

Lead producer on the New York run of Hardbody is touring entity Broadway Across America, which suggests that the show might see a future life on the road.

What do you think?

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