The star of a new musical playing this summer at Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre arrived in Grand Lake this spring via semi truck — a 1999 Nissan Hardbody. “Hands on a Hardbody,” opens this weekend. Based on a 1997 documentary of the same name, the 2013 Tony Award nominated musical tells the true story of 10 Texans competing in a sleep-deprivation contest to win a brand new truck. The catch? The person who keeps their hands on the truck the longest wins.
With music by Trey Anastasio of Phish fame, Hands on a Hardbody features a strong rock vibe. Artistic Director Michael Querio, a 20-year RMRT veteran, saw the musical on Broadway in 2013, and instantly knew he wanted to bring Hands on a Hardbody to Grand Lake. “I chose this musical because of its fresh rock sound,” said Querio. “I always want to present a variety of shows in the summer and this is edgy sounding stuff.” It’s important for theaters to perform shows fresh from Broadway to offer seasoned theatre-goers with exciting, new shows, he said. Though Hardbody appeared in St. Louis earlier this year, this will be the musical’s first showing in Colorado and the West.
A big difference from last year’s dance-heavy productions at RMRT, Hands on a Hardbody’s choreography revolves around the truck. The engine was removed to make it lighter for the actors to move around as they enlighten the audience on why they should win the Nissan.
Hands on a Hardbody tells the tale of an absurd marketing gimmick that proves to be much more. Audiences will be on the edge of their seat rooting for their favorite down-on-their-luck contestant to drive away with the American dream. “You see characters in other musicals and it’s obvious they are fictional, larger than life, but these are real people,” Querio explained. “These characters are down on their luck, and they sincerely believe that winning the truck will significantly improve their lives.”
Every year around 1,500 professional actors audition for RMRT in Chicago, St. Louis, Memphis and Denver. Many actors who debut at Rocky Mountain Rep go on to successful careers on Broadway and beyond. Currently five RMRT alums are starring on Broadway — Abby Mueller (Kinky Boots), Jim Schubin (The Fantastics), Joe Carroll (Cinderella), Dylan Paul (Cabaret) and Andrew Kao (Aladdin).