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‘Hands on a Hardbody’ produced by Charlottean Bruce Long

By Alexis Williams
The Charlotte Arts Journalism Alliance is a consortium of local media dedicated to writing about the arts.

With each passing year, Charlotte is lucky enough to welcome in an array of wonderful traveling shows (among which have been this season’s blockbusters “Les Miserables” and “Wicked”) that have given a little taste of this country’s theatrical capital, Broadway. While we seem to have no problem bringing “ The Great White Way” to Charlotte, how often have we ever been able to say that we’re bringing Charlotte to “The Great White Way?” With the recent opening of Broadway’s new musical, “Hands on a Hardbody,” we can.

If you find yourself hitting the Big Apple in the coming months, and are fortunate enough to score tickets to this promising new show, read your playbill carefully. A few components of this show will catch your attention before the stage lights even go up. One might be the fact that the show’s music was written by Trey Anastasio, lead singer of the popular rock band Phish. You might also be drawn to an impressive line up of talent that includes several Broadway veterans; and if you aren’t familiar with the storyline, the title of the show itself might intrigue you.

While the title “Hands on a Hardbody” may seem a bit unusual at the surface, the name is actually an easy choice once you know the premise of the show. This musical is based on a 1997 documentary by the same title that follows a contest that was previously held at a Nissan dealership in Longview, Texas. The rules of the contest were simple. Twenty-four contestants (although the musical only features ten) were simply instructed to stand around a Hardbody truck, keeping at least one hand on it at all times. The last person standing with their hand on the truck won, and in turn got to keep the truck.

So you may be wondering how Charlotte ties into any of this. Well, simply turn to the credit page of your playbill and look above the title. You’ll see a list of several producers who made “Hands on a Hardbody” possible. One of those producers happens to be Bruce Long, a name that many involved in Charlotte’s theatrical community will find familiar.

Long has had the opportunity to work in several areas of the entertainment world, including, but not limited to film, television and theater. Being an above-the-title producer for a major Broadway production is not the only notable feat on his resume. He has also produced and directed both a PBS series and documentary, produced and directed an impressive selection of various local theatrical productions (including “Les Miserables,” “Seussical” and “Footloose”). He is currently a key contributor to the development of a new musical, “By Grace,” which covers Grace Kelly’s marriage to Prince Rainler III, and has helped coordinate live productions for various companies including NASCAR and The Business Journal Network.

While “Hands on a Hardbody” has a long list of “wow” factors that cater to both the seasoned Broadway audience and the new-to-theater crowd, Long brings a piece of Charlotte to the theatrical melting pot that “Hands on a Hardbody” creates, and his contributions to the entertainment world both in and out of Charlotte are bound to continue to make The Queen City proud.

This article is part of the Charlotte Arts Journalism Alliance, a consortium of local media dedicated to writing about the arts.
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