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Dreams on wheels: The best hardbody money can buy makes Texas debut in Phish musical

Hands on a hardbody rehearsal
Actors rehearse TUTS Underground's production of Hands on a Hardbody. Photo by Joel Luks

A sparking hardbody with a price tag of more than $120,000 may be at the center of TUTS Underground's season finale production, but a look under the hood reveals that this show is about living the American dream.

Inspired by a documentary of the same name set in Longview, Hands on a Hardbody follows some colorful personalities who were chosen to participate in a contest that has a Nissan truck as a grand prize. All the entrants have to do is keep close contact with the vehicle at all times, with a few bathroom breaks and breathers here and there. The candidate who outlasts the others gets to drive away with a brand new set of wheels — and perhaps a brand new life.

As the story unfolds, the music of Phish frontman Trey Anastasio brings into focus the relationships that develop between the contestants and their companions.

 TUTS artistic director Bruce Lumpkin has assembled a mostly Texas cast for the contemporary-minded show.

Through gospel, blues, country and a healthy dose of honky-tonk — it is a Texas tale after all — audiences discover the motivations of the characters and their aspirations for a brighter future, whether that's moving away, providing for their families or escaping the confines of their current lifestyles.

This TUTS Underground production, which runs from Thursday through June 22, marks the first time Hands on a Hardbody will have been performed in the Lone Star state. Theatre Under the Stars artistic director Bruce Lumpkin has assembled a mostly Texas cast for the contemporary-minded show.

In an effort to add realism to the setting, choreographer Michelle Gaudette has imagined movements that keep the actors tethered to the truck whose mechanics have been rigged to allow the players to shift it freely around the stage.

In this "Up To Speed" episode, host Nicole Hickl attends an offsite rehearsal during which the cast members refine their crooning skills and choreography. Watch the video above to hear interviews with Lumpkin, Gaudette and actor Betty Marie Muessig as they chat about what makes Hands on a Hardbody a gem that everyone will enjoy.

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TUTS Underground presents Hands on a Hardbody at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts from Thursday through Jun 22. Tickets start at $25 and may be purchased online or by calling 713-558-8887.

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