I’ve held off a few days on posting my review of Hands on a Hardbody, seen on Thursday night. I have to admit right off the bat that I didn’t like the show, and haven’t been able to put my finger on exactly why.
Trey Anastasio certainly creates a good musical score, if a bit too country-twangish for my taste. Its not the fault of the very strong cast from top to bottom, though their stereotyped roles certainly didn’t draw me in very much. And its not the direction, which does everything it possibly can to draw dynamic movement from a musical about a bunch of people standing around a truck holding on for dear life, in order to win the vehicle in depressed Texas. Based on the 1997 documentary of the same name, which I have to admit I also have no interest in seeing, its not the script, which tries to wring interest out of the setup.
But then there is the opposite: things don’t move enough, The show seems slow, and the set is basically one big advertisement for Nissan trucks. Much like Once last season, which I also did not particularly like, there isn’t anything exactly “wrong” with the show…it just wasn’t of much personal interest. It all seems very “small”, the stories just one piled upon another. I really didn’t care who won the truck, and that’s a big problem in a show where the entire purpose to have someone win the truck. Its about a truck.
And I can’t imagine this show is going to survive very long: seen only days after its official Broadway opening, the house was only about 2/3 full — not a good sign during the first weeks of a show. Its not a show I would recommend a casual visitor to NYC put on their must-see list (though I did recommend Once to friends that I thought would enjoy it). As usual, your mileage may very — and there have been a lot of good reviews for the show.
I’m going to stop here, because I really don’t have anything else to say.