Unicorn Theatre's HANDS ON A HARDBODY Begins Tonight

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Unicorn Theatre's HANDS ON A HARDBODY Begins Tonight

Hands on a Hardbody is a new rock musical about 10 Texans whose new lease on life is so close they can touch it. Under a scorching sun for days on end and armed with nothing but hope and ambition, they'll fight to keep at least one hand on a brand-new truck in order to win it. In this hard-fought contest, only one winner can drive away with the American dream.

Hands on a Hardbody is more than a musical about winning a truck -- it is based on the true events of the acclaimed 1997 documentary by S.R. Bindler and Kevin Morris. It is a remarkable study of competition, camaraderie, faith and determination -- the ultimate human drama. The musical features a book by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning playwright Doug Wright (I Am My Own Wife, Grey Gardens) and music by Trey Anastasio (the frontman of Phish) and Amanda Green (Tony-nominated composer/lyricist), and lyrics by Amanda Green (Bring It On, High Fidelity). The production features a massive cast of 15 with powerhouse voices belting memorable songs, including "I'm Gone," "Stronger," "Hands on a Hardbody" and "Keep Your Hands On It" accompanied by a five-piece live band onstage with the actors. This musical, fresh from Broadway, received three Tony Award nominations in 2013.

Featuring: Marc Liby as J.D., Sara Kennedy as Kelli, Tim Scott as Benny, Daniel Beeman as Greg, Shea Coffman as Chris, Sam Salary as Ronald, Jessalyn Kincaid as Heather, Julie Shaw as Virginia, Matthew James McAndrews as Mike, Trista Smith as Cindy, Francisco Javier Villegas as Jesus, Victoria Barbee as Norma, Cathy Barnett as Janis, Vincent Onofrio Monachino as Frank and Martin Buchanan as Don/Dr. Stokes.

Hands on a Hardbody is on Unicorn Theatre's Levin Stage located at 3828 Main Street, Kansas City, MO 64111. The show runs today, September 3rd - 28th, 2014. Previews are September 3rd, 4th and 5th. Opening Night is September 6th.

Performances run Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m., and Sunday at 3:00 pm. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are Pay What U Can performances. Talk back performances, where patrons are encouraged to stay after the show and discuss the play with the actors and director, are scheduled for September 9th, 14th and 21st.

Tickets are now on sale. Call 816-531-PLAY (7529) EXT. 10, go online at www.UnicornTheatre.org or buy in person at the box office located at 3828 Main St., Kansas City, MO 64111. Special discounts are available for seniors (65+), students, and patrons under age 30.

About the Director, Cast, Band and Creative Team:

Missy Koonce (DIRECTOR) has been a bar owner (bar Natasha), cabaret singer, music producer, theatre producer, actress, choreographer, director, mentor and most recently - "entertainer and humanitarian activist"; needless to say she is always reinventing herself. Missy has worked in virtually every theatrical venue in Kansas City in some capacity; these are a few of her favorite things: co-directing and choreographing Batboy, directing The Salvation of Iggy Scrooge, Speech & Debate, [title of show], and By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, performing in The Laramie Project, Hedwig, a memorable cameo turn as Claire in bare and the one woman show Loving Lucy at the Unicorn, playing a psychotic lesbian in Kimberly Akimbo at the M.E.T. , her knock-out performance as Helene in Pride & Joy... and Mame in Auntie Mame'd produced by Kansas City Artists Against AIDS to benefit AIDS Walk 2010 and 2013, or, at AHT, Beehive and The Dixie Swim Club. Behind the scenes at AHT you may have caught her directorial offerings: My Way and Duck Hunter Shoots Angel. Missy has directed / choreographed / performed too many shows to mention at the Coterie and Late Night Theatre with her brother, Ron Megee...so we won't mention them. She is also known for performing in, coordinating entertainment AND hosting a myriad of "Not-For-Profit" Kansas City events, as well as her continuing journey as President of the AIDS Service Foundation. "I would like to dedicate this show to my folks, they would have really liked this one."

Angie Benson (MUSICAL DIRECTOR/CONDUCTOR/KEYBOARD) National Tours: A Chorus Line, Barry Manilow's Copacabana. Regional: Tommy (Stoneham Theatre), Side By Side By Sondheim (Utah Musical Theatre), I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change (Cleveland Playhouse Square), Sound of Music (Northern Stage), Seussical (West Virginia Public). KC: Ain't Misbehavin', A Little Night Music (Spinning Tree), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Coterie), Miss Saigon, Footloose (Starlight), Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (Unicorn), A Christmas Carol (KC Rep), Sunday in the Park with George, The Music Man (MTH). Upcoming: Spinning Tree's regional premiere of Violet. For Dad.

Christina Burton (CHOREOGRAPHER) is no stranger to the Unicorn. This is her 3rd production, having previously appeared in Everyday Rapture and choreographed Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. She is a graduate of the University of Missouri in Kansas City with a BFA in Dance with an emphasis in Musical Theatre. She is a member of Actors Equity Association. Regional musical theatre credits include: Everyday Rapture (Regional Premier) - Lindsay/Mennonette, Cinderella - Ensemble, 1776 - Hewes/Dickinson, Kiss Me Kate - Hattie, The Man of La Mancha - Aldonza, The Most Happy Fella - Ensemble, Pippin - Player, Footloose - Urleen/Dance Captain, Working - Ensemble, Grease - Cha Cha, Cats - Exotica, Jekyll and Hyde - Lady of the Night. Christina has been a Guest Artist for Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company. She has choreographed and performed in numerous industrials with EPIC Entertainment Inc. and is the director/choreographer for Starlight Theatre's Starlight STARS of Tomorrow. Her choreography credits include: A Christmas Cabaret, Jekyll and Hyde, Blood Brothers, You're a Good Man Charlie Brown, Working, The Most Happy Fella, Grease, Xanadu, 2 by 5, The Kansas City Youth Ballet, Starlight Theatre's Blue Star Awards, Starlight's Children's Theatre production of Disney's Aladdin at the Kauffman Center for Performing Arts and most recently an industrial for AMC's Wanda Gala in Beijing. Christina is Adjunct at the University of Missouri in Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance and is also a certified ZUMBA fitness instructor and teaches at the Kansas City Ballet. She most recently choreographed the Heartland Men's Chorus production of Vegas, Baby!

Marc Liby (J.D.) is thrilled to be back at the Unicorn! KC credits include By the Way, Meet Vera Stark at Unicorn and Footloose at Starlight Theatre. Regional: Cincinatti Shakespeare Company-Of Mice and Men, Great Plains Theatre-The Nerd (Rick Stedman), Oklahoma (Jud), Forever Plaid (Smudge), Children of Eden (God), Daddy's Dyin' Who's Got the Will (Buford), Christmas Schooner, Perfect Wedding. Former Executive/Artistic Director (06-12) at Great Plains Theatre in Abilene, Kansas. Also directs regionally and in Kansas City. Up next: Bingo: The Musical and Odd Couple at Maples Repertory Theatre. Love to Ashley and Sophia. www.marcliby.com.

Sara Kennedy (KELLI) is incredibly excited to be making her Unicorn debut in Hands on a Hardbody! She just recently graduated from the University of Kansas with a BA in Theatre Performance and was last seen on the KCRT stage in Lawrence in Comedy of Errors and Boys from Syracuse. She would like to give a big thanks to Missy and all the Unicorn Theatre folks for casting her in this super fun musical! Let's have some fun!

Tim Scott (BENNY) could not be happier to return to the Unicorn stage! He has appeared in nearly 50 Equity productions and is a two-time winner of PITCH Magazine's "Best of KC" award for performances in Kansas City. Local credits include productions at Starlight Theatre, Coterie Theatre, Quality Hill Playhouse, American Heartland Theatre, and Musical Theater Heritage. Tim is also the curator of MTH's critically acclaimed "Musical Monday" series. Tim made his Off Broadway debut in Lucky Duck at The New Victory Theatre in 2012. He is perhaps still most identified for his previous work as the nationally recognized, award-wining Emcee for the Kansas City Royals. @timscott411 www.TimmyScott.com

Daniel Beeman (GREG) is elated to make his Unicorn debut! He is a senior at UMKC. Credits: Les Miserables, Mary Poppins, Betty Blue Eyes, The King and I (Music Theatre Wichita); The Sound of Music (Kansas City Starlight); A Little Night Music (Spinning Tree Theatre); Carrie: the Musical (Egads Theatre); Next to Normal (She & Her). Boundless thanks to family, friends and the Unicorn for the opportunity! Upcoming: Monty in Violet (Spinning Tree Theatre). www.DanielBeeman.com

Shea Coffman (CHRIS) is excited to return to the Unicorn stage! His previous Unicorn credits include Andrew Jackson in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, and Matt in bare. Regional credits include: The Sound of Music (Starlight Theatre), All Shook Up, Joseph..., Spelling Bee (New Theatre), Spring Awakening, Seussical, U:Bug:Me (Coterie Theatre), Make Me a Song (Spinning Tree Theatre), How to Succeed..., Big River (MTH), Being Alive, Thrill Me (Fishtank Theatre). Upcoming: Cock at Unicorn Theatre.

Sam Salary (RONALD) was born and raised in Kansas City and found his love for acting at the age of ten while participating in church plays. His passion for the theatre followed through high school and ultimately led to a full-ride scholarship to State Fair Community College. While attending State Fair he was a part of many shows including Domestic Tranquility, Are We There Yet...the Musical, Lend Me A Tenor and Macbeth. Sam later transferred to North West State University and was offered opportunities in Snapshot and A Christmas Carol. Sam would like to thank the Unicorn Theatre for this wonderful opportunity to make his debut before the Kansas City theater community.

Jessalyn Kincaid (HEATHER) is always happy to return home to the Unicorn Theatre where her professional career began with Cynthia and Missy. Favorite Unicorn shows include [title of show], Clybourne Park, and The Great American Trailer Park Musical. Other local credits include productions at AHT, The Coterie, MTH, New Theatre, KC Rep, TYA, and MET. Not one for dedications, she dedicates this performance to her late Dad, who in his own words always taught her, "if you love something, keep your hands on it." JBKMM07 @jeskincaid www.JessalynKincaid.com

Julie Shaw (VIRGINIA) is happy to be part of this production with an amazing cast and crew. She has been seen locally here at The Unicorn, Spinning Tree Theatre, Quality Hill Playhouse, The Coterie, Musical Theatre Heritage, American Heartland Theatre, Chestnut Fine Arts and the New Victory Theatre in NYC where she reprised her roles in The Coterie's production of Lucky Duck. Upcoming shows include Violet and Fiddler on the Roof, both with Spinning Tree Theatre. As always, much love to Jack, Caroline and Stuart.

Matthew James McAndrews (MIKE) is returning to the Unicorn for his second production and is kept up at night overjoyed to be back after playing Buddy Holly in The Salvation of Iggy Scrooge in 2011. Since that time, you may have seen Matthew in Christmas Carol or Carousel at the KC Rep, Fat Pig and Master of the Universe at The Living Room, as well as Romeo and Juliet TO GO! and As You Like It with Heart of America Shakespeare Festival. Matthew also works on the technical side of theatre operating his own scenic arts company, MJM Green Scenes. He also, works for A to Z Theatrical as a technician, Overland Trail Middle School as a designer and Saint Thomas Aquinas as a director. Essentially, McAndrews is a jack of all trades and a master none. Great thanks must be given to Matt's ridiculously supportive family, every member of this amazing Unicorn team and YOU the audience. Thanks for supporting theatre!

Trista Smith (CINDY) is so grateful to return to the Unicorn after her role of Storyteller in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, where she made her Kansas City debut. Most recently she worked on a collaborative workshop of Stillwater with The Living Room and Kansas City Repertory Theatre. As an ensemble member of The House Theatre of Chicago, she was been privileged to participate in Death and Harry Houdini, The Sparrow, and The Nutcracker. She also writes and performs in a funny/filthy two-person cabaret comedy act, Smith and Grimm (smithandgrimm.com). All her thanks to Paul for his love and patience.

Francisco Javier Villegas (JESUS) couldn't be more thrilled to be back at the Unicorn Theatre (BARE, The Motherf***** with the Hat, The Soul Collector) with all these fine folks in Hands on a Hardbody. He was born in KC and might be recognized from last season's productions at either the Coterie Theatre (School House Rock, The Wiz, Red Badge Variations), Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre (Night of the Iguana), and Egads! (Lysistrata Jones). Francisco dedicates his work to his 8 year old son, Aiden, and would like to remind everyone that you can live out your dreams each and every day no matter how big they are.... "Go Fast, Take Chances." ....and Yeeee-ha!

Victoria Barbee (NORMA) has been sharing her gift of song since she was a child in her father's church for over 45 yrs. Victoria was introduce to theater in 1998 here in KC at the Historic Gem Theater in the production, Black Nativity. Since then she has been blessed to consistently be working in this lending her voice to causes she believes in. Currently, one can hear Victoria's band, entitled Dark & Darker featured monthly in the P&L at the Hotel Phillips at 12th and Baltimore. Victoria's recent theater productions credits are For Color Girls..., RAGTIME and How to Succeed in Business all at the MET in the past year. After doing CROWN in 2006-2007, Victoria is overjoyed to be back at the Unicorn Theater for this wonderful musical celebration. Lastly, she is grateful to the family and friends for their support over the years and to the staff, crew and management team at the Unicorn for this awesome opportunity.

Cathy Barnett (JANIS) is delighted to return to Unicorn, where she was last seen in Inspecting Carol. She recently appeared in The Starlight Theater's production of The Sound of Music. Prior performances around town include the American Heartland Theater's final production, The Bikinis, Musical Theater Heritage's concert production of Sweeney Todd, and Grey Gardens at Unicorn. She also portrays the Hallmark greeting card character, "Maxine," in live performances, talking cards and on Hallmark's website. Cathy also looks forward to appearing in the upcoming world premiere of Women Playing Hamlet in March 2015 at Unicorn!

Vincent Onofrio Monachino (FRANK) is very excited to be back on stage at the Unicorn. Favorite roles include: "Sheriff" in Bat Boy at Unicorn Theatre, "Fudge" in Coterie's Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing, "Big Jule" in Guys and Dolls at Kansas City Rep, and Maltz Jupiter Theatre in Jupiter, FL, "Potiphar" in Joseph... at The New Theater Restaurant, Musical Monday: Rock of Ages at Musical Theater Heritage, and "Irwin Stratmeyer" in Dangerous to Dance With for Martin Tanner Productions. Vincent has also performed at Starlight, Quality Hill Playhouse, American Heartland Theatre, and Arrowrock Lyceum Theatre. Love to Tom!

Martin Buchanan (DON/DR. STOKES) happily returns to the Unicorn stage after appearing here in Mame'd in March of 2013. He is originally from Houston, TX and loves the opportunity to be in this show set in his native state. Martin has been a Resident Artist at The Coterie, appearing there most recently in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. In KC, he has been in shows at the KC Rep, The New Theatre Restaurant, Starlight Theatre, Spinning Tree Theatre, Musical Theatre Heritage, and Late Night Theatre. Upcoming: A Christmas Carol at the KC Rep and Lasso of Truth here at the Unicorn.

The band is Angie Benson (keyboard), Joe Levens (guitar), Jonathan Lloyd Schriock (violin), Jacquie Fernandez-Lenati (bass), and Kyle Brown (drums).

The creative team for Hands on a Hardbody is Tanya Brown (stage manager), Alex Perry (scenic and lighting design/technical director), Georgianna Londré Buchanan (costume design), Shawnna Journagan (properties design), Rustin R. Bolejack (sound design), Kelsey Brennan York (production assistant), Jamie Lindemann (assistant technical director), David Kiehl (sound technician/operator), and Boni Newberry (dramaturg).

About the Writers:

Doug Wright wrote the book for Hands on a Hardbody. His play Quills (produced at Unicorn Theatre in 1997) premiered at Washington, D.C.'s Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in 1995 and subsequently had its debut Off-Broadway at New York Theatre Workshop. Quills garnered the 1995 Kesselring Prize for Best New American Play from the National Arts Club and, for Wright, a 1996 Village Voice Obie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Playwriting. In 2000, Wright wrote the screenplay for the film version of Quills which starred Geoffrey Rush. Wright's I Am My Own Wife (produced at Unicorn Theatre in 2005) was produced Off-Broadway by Playwrights Horizons in 2003. It transferred to Broadway where it won the Tony Award for Best Play, as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The subject of this one-person play, which starred Jefferson Mays, is the German transvestite Charlotte von Mahlsdorf. In 2006, Wright wrote the book for Grey Gardens (produced at Unicorn Theatre in 2010). The musical is based on the Maysles brothers' 1975 film documentary of the same title about Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale ("Big Edie") and her daughter Edith Bouvier Beale ("Little Edie"), Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis's aunt and cousin. He adapted the Disney's film The Little Mermaid for the Broadway musical, which opened in 2007. In 2009, he was commissioned by the La Jolla Playhouse to adapt and direct Creditors by August Strindberg. In another La Jolla commission, he wrote the book for the musical Hands on a Hardbody, with the score by Amanda Green and Trey Anastasio. The musical had a brief run on Broadway in March and April 2013 after premiering at the La Jolla Playhouse in 2012. For television, Wright worked on four pilots for producer Norman Lear and teleplays for Hallmark Entertainment and HBO. In film, Wright's credits include screenplays for Fine Line Features, Fox Searchlight, and DreamWorks SKG. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild and serves on the board of New York Theatre Workshop. He is a recipient of the William L. Bradley Fellowship at Yale University, the Charles MacArthur Fellowship at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, an HBO Fellowship in playwriting and the Alfred Hodder Fellowship at Princeton University. In 2010 he was named a United States Artists Fellow. Mr. Wright lives in New York City with his partner, songwriter David Clement.

Amanda Green is a Tony-nominated lyricist/composer. She is the recipient of the 2013 Frederic Loewe Award from the Dramatists Guild (with collaborator Trey Anastasio) for her music for Hands On A Hardbody (lyricist; co-composer), one of two new musicals she premiered on Broadway in the 2012-2013 season. She also co-wrote the lyrics for Bring It On. For her work on Hands she was nominated for a Tony Award, Two Drama Desk Awards (music, lyrics) and an Outer Critics Circle Award. She was nominated for a third Drama Desk Award the same year for her lyrics (with Lin Manuel Miranda) for Bring It On. Also on Broadway: High Fidelity (lyrics). NY and regional credits: Stars of David (original songs; 2013; DR2 Theater). Arthur Laurents asked her to write additional lyrics for the revival of Hallelujah Baby (Arena Stage, directed by Mr. Laurents). For The Love Of Tiffany: A Wifetime Original Musical (lyricist, co-star; NY Fringe Festival). "Put A Little Love In Your Mouth! The Songs Of Amanda Green" (Second Stage Theater, Joe's Pub); Up The Week Without A Paddle (2001 LADCC Nomination (Best Score), Backstage's Garland Award (Best Score). She is also an award-winning performer (2 MAC Awards, BISTRO Award) who performs her work, along with Broadway stars, in concerts everywhere from Carnegie Hall to Birdland to The Bluebird Café in Nashville. She has acted in musicals on Broadway and regionally, including originating the role of "Gary Coleman" in Avenue Q at The O'Neill Center. Legendary guitarist Trey Anastasio performs songs he and Amanda have co-written in arena concerts around the country with his bands PHISH and TAB. Other Awards: The Jonathan Larson Award, The Songwriter's Hall of Fame Abe Olman Award. TV: The Wonder Pets. BMI Musical Theater Workshop, Alumni; B.A. Brown University; Dramatists Guild member.

Trey Anastasio co-wrote the music for Hands on a Hardbody. Sometimes it's tempting to reflect on the road not taken. But while most of us regard a fork in the road as an either/or proposition - left or right? - Trey Anastasio instead sees a convergence of opportunities. Traveler, the solo album that he co-produced with Peter Katis (The National, Interpol, Jónsi), marks the coalescence of the many roads Anastasio has taken in his remarkable career. He's toured the U.S. in three separate configurations: playing arenas with his band mates in the GRAMMY-nominated, genre-busting band Phish, concert halls in a series of orchestral evenings conducted by the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Scott Dunn, and intimate clubs with his septet, Trey Anastasio Band. He co-wrote the music for Hands On A Hardbody, which premiered at Southern California's La Jolla Playhouse in May 2012 and opened on Broadway in March 2013. "I really enjoy the give and take, the push and pull, the team work," says Anastasio. "It's one of the things I've always liked about Phish - the unified work together toward a goal. It's so deeply satisfying. I felt that way as I made Traveler, working with Peter and all these new musicians, like we were sculpting something. And working on the play, Hands On A Hardbody, was very similar." In the fall of 2012 Trey's touring band, Trey Anastasio Band, returned to the road in support of Traveler, which also features many members of the band. From its beginnings in 1998 the band has included original members Russ Lawton (drums), and Tony Markellis (bass), and over the years has added Cyro Baptista (percussion), Ray Paczkowski (keys), Jennifer Hartswick (trumpet, vocals), Natalie Cressman (trombone, vocals). A recent tour also featured new-comer James Casey (saxophones, vocals).

About Unicorn Theatre - Founded in 1974, Unicorn Theatre enhances Kansas City by developing and producing professional, provocative new plays. We create opportunities for the advancement of emerging and established actors, directors, playwrights, designers, technicians and administrative staff. Unicorn Theatre is under the artistic and executive leadership of Producing Artistic Director Cynthia Levin, who joined the company in 1979. From a newly expanded home in the Midtown neighborhood of Kansas City, Missouri, the Unicorn houses two stages-The Levin Stage (formerly The Main Stage) and The Jerome Stage (added in 2008). A fully professional not-for-profit theatre, the theatre operates under agreement with Actor's Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States. The Unicorn is a founding member of the National New Play Network, an alliance of not-for-profit professional theatres that champions the development, production and continued life of new plays for the American theatre; and is a constituent member of Theatre Communications Group, Inc., the national service organization for the not-for-profit professional theatre. Financial assistance for this theatre has been provided by The National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency; the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency; corporate and foundation gifts; and the generous individuals throughout the community we serve.

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