WENATCHEE — Ten people place a hand on a truck. Last person with a hand on the truck takes it home.
Those are the stakes for the characters of “Hands on a Hardbody,” a musical performance featured in the Numerica Performing Arts Center’s annual Hot August Nights series.
“I think what will resonate for people who come here is they will identify with these characters,” said director Jaime Donegan. “They’ll get them. They’ll understand them. These aren’t hard people to understand — these are people that live in your neighborhood.”
The musical was adapted from a 1997 documentary of the same name that followed a group of Texans who competed to see who could keep their hands on a Nissan Hardbody pickup for the longest amount of time.
It’s a simple task, but much is learned about the characters during the four-day marathon. Some want the truck so they can sell it, others need the transportation, others just want to win. But they’re all trying to improve their lives in some way, Donegan said.
“It’s a great metaphor for a small town,” Donegan said. “You have these people: they all live there, they have to figure out how to work with each other and you might like some of them — you might not like some of them — but you still have to get together and you still have to figure it out.”
He said the story is in many ways about society.
“There’s talks about religion, there’s talks about race relations, it talks about income differences — poor and rich,” Donegan said. “It’s just got everything that society has. Everything that we’re hearing on the news every single day — and yet it’s a musical.”
Playwright Doug Wright, songwriter Amanda Green and Trey Anastasio, the lead singer and guitarist of Phish, adapted the story for Broadway. The songs are a slice of Americana, Donegan said, with country, rock ‘n’ roll, gospel, bluegrass and ballads.
“It’s very different because it doesn’t have a lot of action in it — people are standing around a truck,” Donegan said.
The show did alright in New York but wasn’t a roaring success; Donegan suspects that’s because there was too much focus on a flashy production and not enough on the characters.
That won’t be a problem in Wenatchee, he said. The set is small and intimate with seating circling the stage.
The 16-person cast is mostly local actors, like Matthew Pippin and Vern Smith, mixed with three from out of state.
“We have some amazing voices in this show,” Donegan said.
Going small is against the grain for Donegan, who tends to go big in his productions, like “The Full Monty” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
“It’s difficult for me because I do a lot of big, theatrical shows and I do things that have a lot of movement and a lot of choreography,” Donegan said. “I’m really trying not to do that because in some ways it’s the stillness of this show that allows you to get to know these characters better.”
“Hands on a Hardbody” will play at the PAC from Aug. 1 to 17. For tickets visit numericapac.org or call 663-2787.