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Kansas City's Unicorn opens season with recent Broadway musical

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Kansas City’s Unicorn Theatre, known for producing plays new to Kansas City audiences, opens its new season with the recent Broadway musical, “Hands on a Hard Body,” a play about Texas hopefuls, pitted against each other and the elements to win their chance at a new beginning with a net truck.

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Previews begin Sept. 3 with the play opening Saturday, Sept. 6 at 8 p.m. at the Unicorn Theatre, which just completed a capitol campaign to purchase the building after years of renting the facility. The opening also marks the completion of major summer repairs, the biggest of which, a new roof.

“Hands On A Hardbody” stems from the 1997 documentary by S.R. Bindler and Kevin Morris, where 10 hard-luck Texans compete to win a brand new Nissan truck by keeping their hands on it for days on end. The last one standing wins the truck and the chance to further their dreams.

Unicorn Theatre will present a splashy musical straight from Broadway from Sept. 3-28 with a large cast of powerhouse voices and a live onstage five-piece band.

The book for “Hands on a Hard Body” comes from the pen of Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winner Doug Wright who penned “I Am My Own Wife” and “Grey Gardens.” Music was written by Trey Anastasio, the frontman of the rock band Phish and Amanda Green who has worked on recent Broadway hits “Bring It On” and “High Fidelity.” Green also wrote the lyrics for the musical.

The cast features fifteen Kansas City actors and a five-piece live band. The sixteenth character will be the full-sized truck on stage that moves and dances with the cast

Directorship falls into the hands of Missy Koonce with Angie Benson serving as musical director and Christing Burton choreographing the production.

According to a Unicorn spokesman, “Hands on a Hardbody” is a new rock musical about 10 Texans whose new lease on life is so close they can touch it. “Under a scorching sun for days on end and armed with nothing but hope and ambition, they’ll fight to keep at least one hand on a brand-new truck in order to win it. In this hard-fought contest, only one winner can drive away with the American dream.”

“Hands on a Hardbody” is more than a musical about winning a truck—it is based on the true 1997 documentary. Information from The Unicorn said, “ It is a remarkable study of competition, camaraderie, faith and determination—the ultimate human drama.” Memorable songs, including “I’m Gone,” “Stronger,” “Hands on aHardbody” and “Keep Your Hands On It” accompanied by a five-piece live band onstage with the actors.

This musical, received three Tony Award nominations in 2013.

The Unicorn cast for “Hands on a Hard Body” includes local actors: Marc Liby as J.D., Sara Kennedy as Kelli, Tim Scott as Benny, Daniel Beeman as Greg, Shea Coffman as Chris, Sam Salary as Ronald, Jessalyn Kincaid as Heather, Julie Shaw as Virginia, Matthew James McAndrews as Mike, Trista Smith as Cindy, Francisco Javier Villegas as Jesus, Victoria Barbee as Norma, Cathy Barnett as Janis, Vincent Onofrio Monachino as Frank and Martin Buchanan as Don/Dr. Stokes.

For tickets and more information check The Unicorn Theatre’s website.