“Hands on a Hardbody” raises the roof

By: Taylor Fulkerson ~Managing Editor~

Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati (ETC) began its season on Sept. 2 with “Hands on a Hardbody.”

The rockabilly themed musical is based on a true story of 10 Texans who had the opportunity to win a new pickup truck simply by keeping a hand on it through 144hours of excruciating sun and heat.

The audience witnesses the whole ordeal through deceptions, mental anguish and the American Dream slipping through the fingers of almost every character.

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ETC’s regional production of “Hands on a Hardbody” expertly blends gospel blues with lively, energetic and realistic storytelling.

“Hands on a Hardbody” features a riveting story. The chance to win a truck is the chance for every character to have a better life and to achieve dreams.

Director D. Lynn Meyers writes in the Director’s Notes that “it’s the dreams that we won’t compromise that keeps us uniquely human and perpetuates and inspires dreams yet to be born.”

Playing on the diverse weaknesses and strengths of each character, it is the quintessential American Dream story for our times.

The vulnerability of every character humanizes even the least likable personalities.

It is no stretch for the audience members to place themselves in the story as well, rethinking what their own American Dreams look like and to what lengths they will go to reach them.

Though the staging of the musical may be simple, it is key to the engaging performance.

One might imagine that a truck on stage could be unwieldy and spacious, but the actors utilized it in every way possible, yielding a dynamic production.

A rotating center stage allows the actors abundant movement without ever taking a hand off the prop. The ambience of ETC facilitates the lively production.

There is no bad seat in the house — the action is visible no matter where you are. Even from seats well off the floor, the drama is in full sight.

The cast in “Hands on a Hardbody” is impressive. No character in the script is insignificant, so every actor is at his or her best.

Combining Texan accents and energetic movement, the actors transport you to the Floyd King Nissan dealership lot, where all the action takes place. The vocal performances of the cast are also impressive.

While some individual vocalists may not be outstanding in their own right, the strong harmonies employed throughout the performance are reminiscient of a gospel choir. The cast packs a punch with the music through and through.

ETC provides a lively performance that is sure to please audiences. “Hands on a Hardbody” runs Sept. 2-21. Tickets can be purchased online at ensemblecincinnati.org or by calling 513-421-3555.

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