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'Hands on a Hardbody' to Touch Down on Broadway

Hands on Hard Body Poster - P 2012

Adapted from the 1997 documentary about an endurance-test competition run by a Texas car dealership, the new musical stars Keith Carradine and features tunes by Phish frontman Trey Anastasio.

Hands on a Hardbody, the new musical based on S.R. Bindler's award-winning 1997 documentary about an endurance competition organized by a Texas car dealership, has secured a Broadway berth, beginning previews Feb. 23 for a March 21 opening at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.

The show had its world premiere early this summer at La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego. Doug Wright, a Pulitzer and Tony winner for his 2004 solo play I Am My Own Wife, penned the book for the musical, while Trey Anastasio of prog-rock band Phish co-wrote the music with lyricist Amanda Green (Bring It On: The Musical). 

Directed by Neil Pepe (Speed-the-Plow), the production will open on Broadway with its full La Jolla cast, led by Keith Carradine, Allison Case and Hunter Foster. The producing team is headed by Broadway Across America.

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Hardbody is based on a true American-Dream story with modern-day echoes of Sydney Pollack's 1969 film about a Depression-era dance marathon, They Shoot Horses, Don't They? Bindler's documentary chronicled the 1995 edition of an annual competition held in Longview, Texas, in which the contestant able to keep his or her hand pressed to a new Nissan pickup truck for the longest time got to take home the vehicle. By the 70th hour, only two people were left standing.

The film won the 1997 Audience Award for best documentary at the AFI Film Festival in Los Angeles. Robert Altman was developing a narrative feature adaptation of the story at the time of his death.

While movies have been retooled into Broadway musicals with increasing frequency in recent years, documentaries have rarely provided adaptation fodder. The most notable exception is the 2007 Tony winner Grey Gardens, which was based on the 1975 cult film by Albert and David Maysles, and also adapted by Wright.

Other musicals scheduled to open on Broadway in the spring include Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, Kinky Boots and Matilda.