Keala Settle used to win over audiences in productions of “South Pacific” and “Nunsense” at Southern Utah University, where she studied theater arts.
Now, Settle is getting rave reviews on Broadway, for her role in the musical “Hands on a Hardbody.”
The musical is based on a 1997 documentary that profiled Texans trying to win a pick-up truck through a grueling contest in which they had to keep their hands on the vehicle longer than the competition. The musical features lyrics by Amanda Green (“Bring It On: The Musical”), music by Green and Phish frontman Trey Anastasio, and a book by Doug Wright (“I Am My Own Wife”).
The New York Times' Charles Isherwood described Settle as “winning, big-voiced,” and called her showcase number “Joy to the Lord” “one of the show's few out-and-out upbeat songs.” In The Hollywood Reporter, critic David Rooney called the number a “standout,” thanks to “the might-lunged Settle.”
It's not Settle's first time on Broadway. In 2011, she made her Broadway debut as a member of the ensemble of “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” (which starred a fellow Utahn, Will Swenson).