New musicals are always cause for excitement. Revivals are wonderful treats as well, but without the new, there won't be treasures to revive later! I was certainly intrigued by the transformation of the successful documentary "Hands on a Hard Body" into a stage musical; how would they take a story of ten people trying to win a truck by keeping at least one hand on the truck at all times and outlasting all the others ? The choreography with the massive, bright red truck is so inventive, and I loved hearing each of the poignant stories told by these talented actors. One of the best things though, was getting to see the excitement of the cast at the stage door after the show. I think for any show, but a new musical especially, there's always apprehension about how it will be received, and having enthusiastic audience members waiting to congratulate you must be gratifying!
Every one of the actors who came out was warm, friendly and appreciative. There was no barricade set up, so it was just a lot of milling about trying to catch a moment with each of the actors. There's always a challenge at the stage door, especially when there's no organized "signing line," to keep your eye out for any of the actors you wanted to meet in particular, without being rude to the actor who is signing for you at the moment. I would never want a less well known actor to think I wasn't just as grateful for his/her time and performance as I was for the better known actor emerging just after! The milling crowd also makes it much more difficult to get decent photos, but the fun remains :)! And although I didn't get a photo of Keala Settle ("Norma," the evangelical Christian relying on a Higher Power for stamina), she gladly signed Playbills and chatted with everyone. I loved her in "Priscilla Queen of the Desert," and she is a scene-stealer here, receiving one of those seemingly endless laughs from the audience at one point in the show.
Another actor I loved in the show and enjoyed meeting at the stage door was Jacob Ming-Trent, the endlessly hungry and supportive to all "Ronald." This was another photo that was just too hard to get, but he might have one of the best smiles in the business! :)
One of the charming things that happened at this stage door was that Dale Soules ("Janis"), was having everyone who asked her to sign their Playbill, sign a little keepsake book of her own. This is the second show I've seen her in ("Hair" was the other), and, along with Allison Case (also from "Hair") and Jay A. Johnson ("Working"), it was great to experience these wonderful performers in such different roles!
Here's a taste of the show courtesy of the show website:
Hunter Foster is the brother of another wildly talented actor, Sutton Foster (recently of "Anything Goes," and the ABC Family show "Bunheads"), and recently guest-starred on her TV show as her fictional brother :). In this show, he plays "Benny," the combative, repeat contestant, and previous winner, eliciting resentment from most of his fellow contestants. The character's story is central to the theme of "holding on" to what's important in life, and he is, arguably, the hardest to root for, but I thought he did a great job in keeping his story intriguing and meaningful despite the hard edges.
Keith Carradine, as "JD," partners with Benny to make it through the grueling contest. The love story with his long-suffering wife, played by Mary Gordon Murray, is a big part of the heart of the show.
Dale Soulis is "Janis," who with her loving husband (William Youmans) cheering her on, fights hard to better their life but knows what's really important. You can see her "autograph book" being signed by a fan on the right while she signs their Playbill.
I just love Connie Ray, and her hilarious turn as "Cindy," the dealership rep trying to rein in the craziness into which the contest is spiraling. I welcomed the chance to tell her how much I also enjoyed her in the 2010 play "Next Fall," and we bonded over being left-handed!
Stage Door Tales
Every stage door has a story.