Hands On A Hardbody

Hands On A Hardbody Rating

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It’s always a pleasure when theatre companies step away from big-name shows to bring local audiences more unique (and often fantastic) shows. Limelight Theatre is the latest in this endeavour – giving Hands On A Hardbody an exceptional Australian debut with excellent production values.

Based on the 1997 documentary of the same name, Hands On A Hardbody is the unexpectedly heartwarming story of competitors vying to win a pick-up truck by being the last person to keep their hands on the vehicle.

Spanning over nearly four days, we meet a pool of characters and learn why they’ve come to take part in the competition and how the win would change their lives. The hardbody in question is a thoughtfully designed piece that anchors the show, offering actors versatility in their abilities to interact with it and each other.

Designed by Mal Anderson, the rest of the set is equally impressive. It helps to bring the ageing car dealership to life, with a lack of side stage curtains creating an outdoor feel to the auditorium. Effective lighting and sound design add to the ambience while assisting in showing the passing of time.

A strong ensemble cast—Breeahn Carter is simply captivating as Heather Stovall, with great spunk and confidence, while Lukas Perez brings an infectious energy to Norma Valverde. Phil Bedworth gives great depth to previous champion Benny Perkins, and Rodrigo Goncalves de Azevado is compelling as Jesus Pena.

Helen Carey and Brad Beckett are utterly endearing, as are Janis and Don Curtis, and are well-balanced in the tense relationship of J.D. Drew and his wife Virginia (Chris McCafferty and Gillian Binks).

Amber Wilson leads the competition as Cindy Barnes, who is the perfect balance of sweet and stern against Ben Mullings’ slimy Mike Ferris. Jacob Anderson is a ball of energy as radio host Frank Nugent. The cast is rounded out by a small ensemble and brief appearances from the competition’s early bow-outs, including a crowd-pleasing Christian Dichiera.

Vocally, audiences are treated to a suite of talent, with slick ensemble singing and harmony work under Sean Davis’s leadership. However, occasional imbalances in sound mixing left soloists momentarily overpowered by the chorus.

Individual stand-outs include Brittany Isaia and Joshua Hollander’s ‘I’m Gone’ – showing off the pair’s palpable chemistry and lovely vocal tone. Riley Merigan also displays his powerful vocal chops in ‘Stronger.’

With performers limited in their movements to stay in the competition, Jane Anderson’s choreography is to be commended – thinking outside the box to create engaging numbers with ‘Joy of the Lord’ a particular high point.

Co-directors David Nelson and Jane Anderson have put together a fun-filled, cohesive production deserving of full-house crowds. It’s a definite recommendation to anyone into a ‘human drama kind of thing.’

This review also appears on It’s On The House. Check out more reviews at Whats The Show to see what else is on in your town.

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