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Alumnus' Broadway Musical Opens to Positive Reviews

By Amanda Morad | April 8, 2013

Hands on a Hardbody opened on Broadway March 21.

"You can hear the sound of America singing in this daring new musical," said the New York Times in their review of the new Broadway musical, Hands on a Hardbody. Regent University alumnus and Broadway producer Bruce Long '98 (Communication) has been involved with the show since its regional development.

The production was originally commissioned by La Jolla Playhouse in La Jolla, California, and made its Broadway debut at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre on Thursday, March 21.

Loosely based on true events, Hands follows ten hard-luck Texans in an endurance competition for a new truck and a new lease on life. "They all aspire to something greater, and this truck is the key," Long said during a campus visit in February. "It would be easy to make light of their comedic situations, but these characters are you and me. It's all of our stories."

While the focus of the action literally revolves around a bright red Nissan truck, the focus of the message is about redemption—a rare theme for Broadway.

"This show has a really strong gospel message to it," Long explained. "One of the primary characters in the show is an evangelical Christian, and for the first time in I don't know how long, Christians are not lampooned, made fun of or caricatured from the stage. This is just a woman who truly loves God. Audiences get to see really who we are."

The climax of the show even features the antagonist encountering God for the first time, Long said. "It's a beautiful, authentic moment that I think will not only reaffirm Christians in their faith, but also give them an opportunity to reach people who aren't Christians. The Gospel message is presented so clearly that it really has the potential to affect people's lives and get them at the very least talking about salvation."

Long's role as a producer on the show began more than a year ago when it was still playing at La Jolla and he was invited by an industry mentor to see the musical and get involved. "It was a very young version of the show, but I really liked it," Long said. "I saw it in May, and by August we were in talks for me to join the producing team."

Intrigued by the story and message of Hands, Long committed last summer to funding a certain amount of the show's production cost and spent the next four months recruiting investors to get the show on its feet in New York.

"What enamored me to the piece in La Jolla was the fact that Christianity was, for once, treated fairly on the stage," he said. Now that the capital for the show has been raised, Long's focus has shifted to marketing the show to an audience not well-known for supporting Broadway theatre.

"My job has become to connect Christian audiences with the show," he explained. "This is a really unique opportunity for Christians to support a show—by buying a ticket—that displays Christianity in a very authentic light."

Long said that the evangelical tone of the piece is even more overt in the final production than it was in the first version he saw that prompted him to sign on. Up until opening night, Long and the other producers helped the creative team tweak and streamline the show so it was commercially ready for Broadway. "It's a semiotic relationship," he said of how artists and producers collaborate. "They need us and we need them."

The team's work has paid off well as many review heavyweights, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Variety have praised the show's originality and heart.

"This show wasn't written to be evangelical; it just is, and that's the beauty of it," Long said. "It wasn't written with the intent of saving souls, but the natural outflow of how these characters relate to each other and what ultimately happens to them truly is the gospel message."

Check out Hands on a Hardbody.


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