Garden Theatre to Present HANDS ON A HARDBODY Central Florida Regional Premiere

By: Jan. 15, 2016

The Garden Theatre is proud to present TheatreWorks Florida's production of Hands on a Hardbody showing January 29 - February 21, 2016. Hands on a Hardbody is sponsored by Joe Worsham and Becky Worsham Farrant at Pacific Global Investment Management Company, Insight Credit Union and Toole's Ace Hardware.

Hands on a Hardbody, based on a documentary about an actual contest, follows the story of ten hard-luck Texans for whom a new lease on life is so close they can touch it. Under a scorching sun for days on end, armed with nothing but hope, humor and ambition, they'll fight to keep at least one hand on a brand-new truck in order to win it. Infused with a "fresh roots-rock vibe," an actual pickup truck takes center stage in this hilarious, hard-fought contest where only one winner can drive away with the American Dream.

This musical was nominated for numerous awards, including Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Broadway Musical and Outstanding New Score and three Tony Awards, including Best Original Score. The book was written by Tony and Pulitzer-winner Doug Wright, and the music was written by Trey Anastasio and Amanda Green. Green, who also wrote the lyrics, is the daughter of legendary lyricist and playwright Adolph Green (On the Town and Singin' in the Rain). She also wrote the lyrics for Tony-nominated Bring It On: The Musical and High Fidelity. Anastasio is best known for being the co-founder and front man of the Grammy-nominated band, Phish, and has toured smaller clubs with his septet, Trey Anastasio Band. Hands on a Hardbody is his first foray into writing for musical theatre.

Hands on a Hardbody is directed by Scott A. Cook, the artistic producer of TheatreWorks Florida. Cook has brought exciting and colorful productions to the Garden Theatre stage, including Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2014), Nunsense (2013), Legally Blonde: The Musical (2012), Little Shop of Horrors (2011) and Forever Plaid (2009). Cook has developed show designs and concepts for companies such as Universal Studios Florida and the Walt Disney World Company, and won numerous producers' honors including the Pierrots Award, Best Musical for Cats at Theatre Winter Haven in 2006 and 10 awards including Best of Fest at the 2012 Orlando International Fringe Festival for Little Shop of Horrors and the 2013 BroadwayWorld Orlando Award for Best Musical for Legally Blonde.

When asked what makes this show unique, Cook says, "In the flurry of big musical spectacles that are the trend now-a-days, Hands on a Hardbody brings us back to a theatrical experience that focuses on the characters and the story each of them have to tell. We become completely engaged in their efforts to reach the American Dream in a contest that seems simple on the surface, but as time wears on, we find out there is more than meets the eye to why each of these characters dared to come to the competition in the first place. We meet them, fall in love with them and suddenly are pursuing their dream with them right to bitter end. It is the 'working man's A Chorus Line.'"

Another unique and challenging aspect of the production is the presence of a Nissan truck that takes center stage. The truck has to be incorporated in every movement of the actors. It needs to turn, spin, and become a dance partner for the incredible choreography that takes place around, and on, the truck. In this show, the truck becomes another character in the story instead of a prop.

Since the characters are drawn from the real people in the award-winning documentary with the same name, "the audience will very quickly relate to the characters and the challenges that make up their lives," according to Cook. "This allows us to create real human beings with real life stories and present 'a slice of life' that resonates on every human emotional level."

The 15-person cast includes:

Justin J. Scarlat as Benny Perkins
Michael Colavolpe as JD Drew
Desiree Perez as Norma Valverde
Candy Marilyn Heller as Cindy Barnes
Casey Faulkner as Mike Ferris
Kat Myers as Kelli Mangrum
Gabe Friedman as Greg Wilhote
Kristoffer Cleto as Jesus Peña
Blake Aburn as Chris Alvaro
Jamaal Solomon as Ronald McCowan
Karissa Barber as Heather Stoval
Beki Herrbach as Janis Curtis
Jessica Hoehn as Virginia Drew
Tom Limbacher as Frank Nugent
Aaron Atkinson as Don Curtis/Dr. Stokes

Those who have previously appeared on the Garden Theatre stage include: Desiree Perez (Sweeney Todd, Hairspray, Nunsense, Little Shop of Horrors), Candy Marilyn Heller (Sweeney Todd, Boeing Boeing), Jamaal Solomon (Little Shop of Horrors) and Karissa Barber (Miracle on 34th Street). A number of the cast and crew have been honored by receiving awards from BroadwayWorld Orlando: Candy Marilyn Heller (2014 Best Lead Actress in a Musical - Sweeney Todd); Desiree Perez (2014 Best Lead Actress in a Play - Solos); David Foust (2014 Best Musical Direction - Sweeney Todd); and Jim Beck (2014 Best Set Design - Sweeney Todd).

Tickets to Hands on a Hardbody are $29 for seniors and students, $33 for adults. There are special discounted prices for opening night and Thursday performances. Show times are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm. There will be an Industry Night performance on Monday, February 8 at 8pm with $15 tickets.

For tickets, visit or contact the Garden Theatre Box Office at 407-877-GRDN (4736). Groups of 10 or more are eligible for discounts of up to 25% by contacting group sales manager Jana Goupil at 407-877-4736 x208.