DC Theatre Scene: HANDS ON A HARDBODY

Sure, it might not immediately resonate as stereotypical Broadway fodder, but Hands on a Hardbody actually makes a lot of sense as an idea for a musical. The show was based on a documentary of the same name, had a brief Broadway run in 2013 and is known for helping launch the career of “The Greatest Showman” star Keala Settle.

Think about its premise: the contest offers the opportunity to throw a group of semi-desperate souls from rural Texas together to share their life stories and the circumstances that drove them to spend days standing around in pain and in hunger, all for the possibility of taking home a brand new truck. They each deserve their own “I Want” song, right?

And they each get one (and sometimes even more than that) … but along the way, the musical introduces Keegan Theatre audiences to an appealing mix of characters, whose problems aren’t always the fodder of Broadway material.

It’s a pleasure to get to know each contestant briefly during Hands on a Hardbody. Among its most infectiously charming individuals is Norma (Shayla Lowe), a religious woman who has entire churches praying for her victory. Prone to fits of uncontrollable laughter, she also gets swept away by spirituals. Like Norma, Keegan audiences will undoubtedly “feel the joy” as they’re swept up into the trying but ultimately uplifting life stories of Hands on a Hardbody’s hearty competitors.

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