Tyce Green stars in the TUTS Underground production of ‘Hands on a Hardbody.’
by Donalevan Maines
In Hands on a Hardbody, the other characters don’t know quite what to make of quiet ex-Marine Chris Alvaro. “He wears aviator sunglasses and dark clothes, and he’s by far the youngest,” explains out actor Tyce Green, who plays Chris in the show that runs this month in Houston.
It’s the Lone Star State premiere of a 2013 Broadway musical that out Dallas playwright Doug Wright based on a 1997 film documentary about a Longview endurance/sleep deprivation contest to win a new Nissan truck. The musical pares down the movie’s 24 contestants to 10 down-on-their-luck Texans who compete to be the last person standing with a hand on the truck.
“Chris has this pissy attitude,” says Green. “Like he’s hiding something.” But midway into Act I, Green explains, “There’s a moment when he just breaks.” When he belts out a song called “Stronger,” says Green, “What’s cool is that people realize what he’s been through and what he’s going through.”
Chris was “a scrawny dude who messed up, he got a girl pregnant, his life became one downward spiral after another,” says Green. “The contest becomes a way to show people and to show himself that he has the physical and mental capacity to be a responsible adult and provide for his family.
“On the surface, you see people going in, wanting to win a truck,” adds Green. “What they really want is to connect with each other.
“I’m no stranger to going through a lot of crap,” says Green. “Especially being gay and interested in musical theater: how stereotypical can you get? I’ve always been in a little bit of a different mode. Sometimes, I wake up and feel like a 50-year-old woman.
“I can’t sit still longer than five minutes” he says, “and that’s being conservative.
“At a certain point, you figure out what you want in life—whether to stay in a small mindset or go out and be the best person you can be,” he continues. “I felt something projected on me that made me feel different. Do I change myself? What can I do? The best thing is to not try to change, because what I am is good enough.”
Among the other characters in Hardbody are an injured oilfield worker trying to keep his wife from having to work at Wal-Mart; a big-hearted Holy Roller; and a Mexican-American who dreams of going to school to become a veterinarian.
“It’s a funny thing,” says Green. “If we spent less time identifying our differences and more energy on our similarities, we would realize that everyone’s feelings are valid.”
From the musical score’s titles (set to various blues, gospel, country, and honky-tonk tunes), you get some idea of the 10 contestants’ different motivations for entering the contest: “Human Drama Kind of Thing,” “Burn That Bridge,” “Hunt with the Big Dogs,” “Used to Be,” and “God Answered My Prayers.”
When the show debuted on Broadway last year, The New York Times wrote, “You can hear the sound of America singing.”
Doug Wright, who won a Pulitzer Prize for “I Am My Own Wife,” also adapted the documentary Grey Gardens into an especially satisfying musical. Indie musician Trey Anastasio of Phish co-wrote the music with lyricist Amanda Green (the daughter of actress Phyllis Newman and songwriter Adolph Green).
Hands on a Hardbody was nominated for three 2013 Tony Awards: Best Original Score, and Best Featured Actor/Actress in a Musical.
Amazingly enough for a show about a truck, it was nominated for Outstanding Choreographer of a Broadway Show at last year’s Fred & Adele Astaire Awards. Sergio Trujillo’s choreography was one of nine mentions at the Drama Desk Awards, where it tied for most nominations with the off-Broadway production of Giant, based on the Edna Ferber novel that became an Oscar-winning movie.
Green performed off-Broadway as Spinks in Kissless The Musical when the homegrown production was presented at the 2011 New York Musical Theatre Festival. “It ran for a hot second, but I got to see what New York was all about,” says Green.
“My dream is to be in a Broadway show. If I’m not in a Broadway show by October 2015—I’ll just say this: I’m going
to be in one.”
In addition to acting, Green teaches private lessons as a vocal coach (theauditionconsultant.com) and produces concerts and workshops (straightfromnewyork.com), including the upcoming master classes June 23 and 24 at Rice University with Adam Pascal, who played Roger in the stage and screen versions of Rent.
What: TUTS Underground’s Hands on a Hardbody
When: June 12–22
Where: Hobby Center, 800 Bagby St.
Tickets: start at $24 and are available online at tutsunderground.com or by phone at 713.558.TUTS (8887).