Springs Fine Arts Center production of ‘Hands on a Hardbody’ a fun, folksy musical

Who hasn’t lusted for a car or truck? And what would you do to get a free one? That’s the setup for Hands on a Hardbody, playing through April 14 at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center March 29.

Ten contestants in the stifling summer heat of East Texas compete to win a brand-new, shiny red pickup truck in the local dealership’s annual contest. It’s simple: Keep your hands on the vehicle and the last one standing gets the truck.

Peppered with comical characters and energized with roots-rock, the contestant backstories are shared in song and dialogue. From the frivolous to the heartwarming, the hard-luck Texans vie to out-maneuver each other as they unwittingly reveal their vulnerabilities. Like an episode of Survivor, alliances are made and broken as resolve wanes and the contestant pool begins to shrink.

Standouts among the actors include Ella Nora Thomas making her FAC debut as the no-nonsense Norma, her voice an amazing treat to the ears. A mainstay in local theatre, Judeth Shay Comstock embraces a more subdued character in this story, underscoring her versatility: equal parts actor and accomplished vocalist.

Brittany Ambler (Kelli) and Parker Fowler (Greg) shine as the young couple, bolstering each other in what promises to be more than a contest for them.

With 25 FAC productions to her credit, Carmen Vreeman Shedd plays the cunning Heather with provocative zeal.

Nominated for three Tony Awards after its 2013 Broadway debut, the play is pure Americana. The diverse cast of veterans and newcomers deliver credible dialogue, sing with gusto and move with precision. They never lose their focus on the truck as the object of their desire: red, shiny and always center stage.

Crafty choreography, spot-on staging, strong acting and impressive vocals make this show a standout.

So who wins the truck? No spoilers here. FAC patrons are the real victors in this entertaining contest.

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