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Try to keep your hands on Texas hardbody Maria Patrice Amon | Fri, May 25 2012 11:47 AM

Watch your hands at the world-premiere musical “Hands on a Hardbody” at the La Jolla Playhouse. The Texas ritual is set to a wide range of Southern country, blues, gospel and rock in this surprising and endearing musical.

The competition promises to give away a new hardbody truck to the contestant who can keep a hand on the truck for the longest time. The competition seems simple but requires an extra-human power of will. The challenge lasts for over five days and contestants only get 15-minute breaks every six hours. There is no squatting, no leaning, no lifting hands, no sleeping and no swearing.

The contest is tough but each of the 10 contestants is in the competition to give their life some kind of change. Aspiring students, out-of-work parents, wishful kids, and has-beens gather around the hardbody to test their wills and find a spark of hope in an economy with a downward trend.

A wealth of talent graces the stage in this ensemble musical. Keith Carradine appears as an aging man forced into early retirement after an accident on an oil rig trying to prove his worth to himself and the world. Hunter Foster, from Broadway’s “Urinetown,” is a former winner who finds himself in an angry and bitter loser’s world.

Especially touching is the song “Born in Lareado,” sung by Jon Rua.

Rua plays a young man playing to win the money to attend veterinary school. A woman singles him out to check his legal status, and he responds in song that he sees what she sees, he knows the assumptions society places upon him but he was born in Laredo and has as much a claim on the American dream as the others.

“Hands on a Hardbody” is playing now through June 17 at the Mandell Weiss Theatre at the La Jolla Playhouse, with evening performances Tuesday through Sunday and weekend matinees. Tickets are available by calling (858) 550-1010, online at www.lajollaplayhouse.org or at the Playhouse box office. Ticket prices range from $35 to $60 with discounts for children.

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