The Broadway musical of Hands on a Hard Body–based on the documentary–is about a Texas endurance test whereby various striving people have to keep a hand on a shiny new truck in order to try and win it. While singing.
The show explodes at one point in Act One when a wonderful actress/singer named Keala Settle–as a contestant with a devout belief in the lord–starts losing it and laughing gleefully, bolstered by the gospel messages being piped into her headphones.
Keala was the mullet-wearing outback bar patron who hilariously deadpanned “I Love The Nightlife” in Priscilla. Here, as the ever faithful Norma Valverde, she only loves Jesus, and gets a direct line to him via what she’s hearing the whole time. In her big moment, she starts chuckling, then giggling, then guffawing in some kind of mysterious heavenly rapture. Then her private blurting of laughter mounts even more, then it soars, then it fills the room and becomes absolutely contagious, both to the other characters and the audience.
And then she breaks into an a cappella song called “Joy To The Lord” about her belief, and it’s every bit as infectious as her laughing jag. The others jump in, upon which Keala starts playing percussion on the truck, and everyone takes to banging the thing and/or adding a little horn action, making for an intoxicating mix of sheer elation that’s jazzy and powerful.
The number is such a winner that I felt they should have Keala positioned more downstage (for the latter part of the song, she’s aimed at an angle that points upwards) and also let her sing it for at least three more minutes. Believe me, it would go from “Wow” to “OMG!!!”
But at least they reprise it in Act Two–this time with Keala crying at first! What virtuosity!
I must say this is the first time I ever rooted for a bible thumper, I guess because the Broadway songwriters didn’t have her singing anything like “Gays are hellbent sinners!” The character seems perfectly nice, just maybe a little overdependent on the divine being–and those headphones.
Whatever the case, I pray–I mean hope–they get to do this number on Tonys. It would sell lotsa tickets, which would mean tons of people would promptly hop into their trucks and head to 47th Street.
OK, back to my soaps.