But for my money, the real action (or inaction) is at the Unicorn, where Cynthia Levin and company roll out a funny, touching and ultimately redemptive production of Trey Anastasio‘s first Broadway musical HANDS ON A HARDBODY, now thru Sunday September 28.
Trey Anastasio– you mean the lead guitar player of Phish? That’s the one. Joined by Broadway nobility Amanda Green (daughter of Adolph Green of Comden and Green fame), Anastasio brings a whole bag of great musical styles to this true story of a “They Shoot Horses Don’t They” style Texas truck contest.
The deal is, you win this Nissan pick-up (all four cylinders worth) if you’re the last one standing with your hand still touching that shiny Japanese hard body. And in the Aggie summer heat, that’s going to bring out some desperate detritus of humanity.
There’s the bitter returning champ, the Jesus-fueled big mamma, the Hispanic kid trying to get money for vet school, the chick from UPS with a dream to see the Pacific and more — 10 tough Texans whose intimate stories become revealed as the hours unfold on the Nissan lot. There’s some cheating going on; and the promotion is probably gonna bankrupt the dealership to boot.
Missy Koonce has done a splendid job getting HARDBODY off the hydraulic and onto the stage. She’s cast this show superbly– the ensemble company could be the best I’ve seen in a Unicorn musical since FALSETTOS. Tim Scott cuts through his usual tough, cynical persona to show us an empty sadness that earns our compassion. I couldn’t get HARDBODY original Keith Carradine‘s voice out of my head whenever Marc Liby as old-timer J.D. took to singing– but Liby got every bit of J.D.’s warmth and sweetness just right. Shea Coffman, Julie Shaw, Daniel Beeman, Sam Salary, Jessalyn Kincaid, Julie Shaw, Matthew McAndrews, Trista Smith, Francisco Villegas, Victor Barbee, Vince Monachino, Martin Buchanan and the always irrepressible Cathy Barnett— channeling her Maxine Hallmark character–were all note perfect in their hefty on-stage roles.
Musical director Angie Benson— a force of nature on that keyboard– leads a terrific onstage ensemble that does Anastasio proud. All of the design elements are up to the Unicorn’s usual standards– and that truck looks great up there (kudos to the dealership that loaned Levin the Nissan).
I saw HARDBODY on Broadway– an odd address (and ticket price) for a show about a group of down and outers.
Despite a budget 1/100th the size, the Unicorn production moved me in ways I couldn’t get close to in New York.
Chalk that up to the right venue for the property (something I’m afraid the Rep’s OUR TOWN doesn’t share). That plus the ongoing dedication of Levin and company to do really fearless things on that stage make the Unicorn the place to be for HANDS ON A HARDBODY.