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Courtesy Chad Batka Keala Settle (center, foreground), an alumna of Southern Utah University, plays one of the contestants in an endurance contest in "Hands on a Hardbody," a Broadway musical based on a 1997 documentary.
SUU alumnus garners Tony Award nomination for role in ‘Hands on a Hardbody’

Tony Awards » “Big-voiced,” hard working Keala Settle gets prestigious nomination two years after her Broadway debut.

First Published Apr 30 2013 04:40 pm • Last Updated Dec 07 2013 11:30 pm

A Southern Utah University alumnus was nominated Tuesday for a Tony Award.

Keala Settle, who played the character of Norma Valverde in the Broadway premiere of "Hands on a Hardbody," is one of five nominees for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical.

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Settle said in an email she was excited by the news but had no time to talk about her nomination.

The musical, based on a 1997 documentary film, follows 10 Texans determined to win a pickup truck after a car lot sponsors a contest to see who can keep a hand on it the longest. Settle earned praise for her role, which included a rousing a cappella rendition of the musical’s signature number, "Joy of the Lord." The musical also cast Keith Carradine, star of many Robert Altman films, as JD Drew.

Settle performed in last year’s world premiere of "Hands on a Hardbody" at California’s La Jolla Playhouse, and its Broadway run, which ended late last month at New York City’s Brooks Atkinson Theatre.

During her days at SUU, Settle was a great talent determined to make it big, faculty members said in a press statement issued when "Hands on a Hardbody" made its Broadway debut.

"Keala always had those star qualities of stubbornness, determination, enormous talent, likability and a dash of mischievousness," said Richard Bugg, a professor at the university’s College of Performing & Visual Arts. "It was always a pleasure to work with her and watch her spellbind the audience." Besides Settle, other actors nominated in the category are Annaleigh Ashford for her role in "Kinky Boots," Victoria Clark for her role in "Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella," Andrea Martin for her role in "Pippin" and Lauren Ward for her work in "Matilda The Musical."

Winners will be announced June 9 during a celebrity-filled ceremony from Radio City Music Hall.

bfulton@sltrib.comTwitter: @ArtsaltFacebook.com/fulton.ben

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