Archive for Hunter Foster
The reviews for Hands on a Hardbody are in and critics seemed pleasantly surprised by the production. You get the impression that they all went in expecting to hate a show about a group of people trying to keep their hands on a truck, but though they might have found the show static in parts, the combination of characters and song genres not often seen or heard on the Broadway stage offered a refreshing, definitively American tale. Though a little preachy here and there, a little too Phish-ily repetitive in song-styling and a little too truck-centric in movement terms, they found Hands charming and satisfying.
NEW YORK TIMES
“You can hear the sound of America singing in “Hands on a Hardbody,” the daring new musical that opened at the Brooks Atkinson Theater on Thursday night. With a bravado to match the gumption of its characters…this new show drives onto the Broadway lot without the high-gloss blandishments that adorn most big musicals…Of splashy song and dance there isn’t much. The skillful score, by Trey Anastasio of the indie jam-band Phish (music) and Amanda Green (music and lyrics), locks into a bluesy country-rock vibe early and hugs it tight. The characters’ hearts may yearn to dance free, but they are forced by circumstances to stand still…Although it’s far from fully loaded in a conventional sense, this scrappy, sincere new musical brings a fresh, handmade feeling to Broadway…The biggest challenge the musical faces is the inevitably static nature of the story line. It’s not a problem the show really overcomes…“Hands on a Hardbody” can’t always surmount the energy drain resulting from the characters’ inability to move for long stretches. I wish too that the musical’s authors were not quite so thorough in canvassing the headline-making troubles of Americans today…But if the writing occasionally wears its social concerns on its sleeve, the score cuts loose.”
“If sales of Nissan pickup trucks tick up in the next few months, there may be an unlikely source: a Broadway musical….Anastasio and Broadway veteran Amanda Green have written a soundtrack of mostly fine songs in a nice mix of styles — blues, gospel, country and honky-tonk — that will fire you right up. Playwright Doug Wright has had some fun himself, the cast is committed and realistic, and the whole thing is a pleasing, tuneful, heart-filled ode to small towns and American dreams….Director Neil Pepe and Sergio Trujillo, who did musical staging, get full credit for making this show move delightfully despite the subject matter being an exhausting test of endurance…Trujillo has his actors duck under each other’s arms, jump and dance on the spinning truck, make it the object of a tug-of-war and even bring the house down in a “Stomp”-like song in which the actors knock out a beat on the Nissan itself, turning it into a big drum.”
AM NEW YORK
“One of the simplest, purest ways to create a drama is to expose a competition or game where various individuals are all motivated to win – preferably at any cost. There are two great musicals written from this vantage point: “A Chorus Line” and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” Now comes “Hands on a Hardbody.”…The musical, which has an underwhelming but heartfelt country-rock score by Phish frontman Trey Anastasio and Amanda Green and a penetrating book by Pulitzer-winning playwright Doug Wright, creates an environment where nearly all the participants are suffering economically and are in desperate need of a financial windfall. Neil Pepe’s production is quite gripping – most impressive is how the actors manipulate the vehicle and perform dance choreography while their hands are still attached to it.”
“Well, Broadway finally got itself an all-American musical in “Hands on a Hardbody.” The question is, will an all-American audience go for it?…[with an] unusually articulate book and well-integrated score [that leaves] characters revealing unexpected aspects of themselves in both song and narrative — which makes [the musical] both musically unpredictable and dramatically credible….If the show has a weakness, it’s that the music is so consistently all-of-a-piece that some of the songs tend to melt into one another….With 10 people stuck to a truck for much of the show, a choreographer doesn’t have much of a chance to do his stuff. But helmer Neil Pepe and Sergio Trujillo, who did the musical staging, find a lot of ways to push that truck around the stage and make it look interesting.”
“If you only see only one musical this year loosely based on a 1997 documentary about people in Texas trying to win a Nissan truck by being the last person to keep their hand on it, it may as well be Hands on a Hardbody…there is much to enjoy here, from Hunter Foster’s bullying portrayal of a two-time car-winning champion — if that’s the right word — to Keala Settle’s turn as the desperate, God-fearing Norma. The actors also include the great Keith Carradine, who is probably best known now for appearing on Showtime’s Dexter but who both sang and wrote the Oscar-winning song ”I’m Easy” for Robert Altman’s 1975 movie Nashville. Sadly, few of the numbers in Hands on a Hardbody are as memorable as that melancholic ditty. The tunes that work best find Anastasio and cowriter-lyricist Amanda Green at their musically Phishiest…But the pair’s excursions into country, blues, and a clutch of other genres rarely rise above the generic. Moreover, while the songwriters and book author Doug Wright clearly regard this insane competition as a prism through which to consider such weighty subjects as war, religion, and racism, it is rather difficult to engage with such ruminative choreography when the cast is literally dancing around an enormous car.”
Bye Bye “Birdie”
The universally panned production of Bye Bye Birdie, starring John Stamos and Gina Gershon, closed on Broadway on Jan 24 after playing 117 performances. Though selling at 90% capacity, producers decided the show’s success would dwindle upon the departure of its stars and so closed as planned, rather than extending its run.
Hello New Work
An exciting new musical that’s been getting lots of buzz in the social media sphere Frank Wildhorn (Jekyll & Hyde, The Scarlett Pimpernel, The Civil War) and Jack Murphy’s (The Civil War) Wonderland, a new take on Lewis Carol’s “Alice in Wonderland.” The show opened on Jan 20 at the Alley Theatre in Houston.
The cast includes a lot of Broadway names, including Janet Dacal (In the Heights, Good Vibrations), Jose Llana (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee), Karen Mason (Sunset Boulevard, Mamma Mia!), Darren Ritchie (Dracula: The Musical), Nikki Snelson (Legally Blonde), Ed Staudenmayer (Forbidden Broadway) and Tad Wilson (Rock of Ages).
This show definitely has Broadway aspirations, though no dates or official plans have yet been announced. Cross your fingers that its sooner rather than later.
Duncan Sheik’s The Whisper House
Spring Awakening‘s Dunkan Sheik celebrated the world premiere of Whisper House, which opened Jan. 21 at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. The show, which features a hauntingly beautiful score, has hopes of making it to Broadway sometime in the next couple of years.
The Pee Wee Herman Show
Another show with Broadway aims is the Pee Wee Herman Show, which opened on Jan 20 at the Los Angeles’ Club Nokia @ L.A. LIVE. Paul Reubens stars the title role he created back in the 1980s and looks to be having just as much fun today as he did back then. Though more a show with music than a musical, I couldn’t not include it on the blog here. I mean, it’s Pee Wee Herman!
A Spice Girls Musical?
Yep. Pee Wee Herman isn’t the only pop-culture icon to be brought to the stage. Mamma Mia! producer Judy Craymer is turning her attention to a jukebox musical that will use the songs (and we can only hope, the personalities) of that crazy English girl-group of the 90s – the Spice Girls.
Original Foursome will Make their Broadway Debuts with Million Dollar Quartet
The original foursome from the Chicago production of the musical Million Dollar Quartet, Eddie Clendening, Lance Guest, Levi Kreis and Rob Lyons, will reprise their roles in the show’s Broadway premiere, all making their Broadway premieres. They will be joined by two Broadway veterans: Hunter Foster (Urinetown, Little Shop of Horrors) and Elizabeth Stanley (Cry-Baby, Company).
Showtime to Document the Process of Taking a Musical from Concept to Broadway
If you’ve kept up with the blog here, you know that Speilberg is producing a new Showtime series tracing the evolution of a new musical.
Composers Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Hairspray, Catch Me If You Can) were previously announced as being on board, and now a writer has surfaced – Theresa Rebeck – the author who penned the recent off-Broadway hit the Understudy and has a fair number of TV shows under her belt.
I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to see this show get off the ground, and if the success of Glee and the long string of casting shows series, I’m not the only one that’ll be eating it up.
Norbert Leo Butz on TV
Norbert Leo Butz (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Wicked, The Last Five Years) is starring as Rowdy Kaiser on ABC’s “The Deep End,” a new drama series about five first-year lawyers starting out at a top firm. If you missed last week’s premiere – check it out on ABC’s website.