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Hands on a Hardbody - Broadway

A new musical based on the 1997 documentary of the same name.

Hands on a Hardbody Showstopper Keala Settle on Growing Up Barefoot & Grabbing Her Big Broadway Moment 'By the Balls'

Hands on a Hardbody Showstopper Keala Settle on Growing Up Barefoot & Grabbing Her Big Broadway Moment 'By the Balls'
Keala Settle photographed by Jenny Anderson for
'It takes a damn village to get a show on Broadway!'

Age & Hometown: 37; Laie, HI

Current Role: An inspiring performance as Norma Valverde, who relies on her faith in the Lord to win a new pickup truck in Hands on a Hardbody.

Aloha! Growing up in Oahu as the oldest daughter of a British father and Polynesian mother, Settle considered her home island a personal playground. “We weren’t wearing shoes on a full-time basis until prom,” she jokes of her relaxed upbringing. “My parents tried to make us civilized, but you know, it’s a rock in the middle of the ocean.” Computers and VCRs were rare, but Settle and her friends made their own entertainment: “For kicks, we’d sit at the Chevron with our bag of Funyons and just make fun of each other.” At home, Settle fell in love with her parents’ music, listening to everything from Chaka Khan and Stevie Wonder (her mom’s favorites) to Tchaikovsky and Mozart (her dad’s picks). “Music was always a part of my life,” she says. “It molded who I am and what I do today.”

She Can’t Stop the Beat: After a stint at BYU Hawaii, Settle ventured to the mainland to finish her degree at Southern Utah University before moving to Las Vegas. When the actress and her friends drove from Vegas to L.A. “at the crack of dawn” for a Hairspray open call, Settle headed into the audition room telling herself, “I am going to be a Dynamite. Today is the day!" The casting directors had other ideas. “They said, ‘Do you know the Tracy stuff?’ and I said, ‘No, but I could sight-read it if you want me to.’” One kick-ass rendition of “Good Morning Baltimore” and eight callbacks later, and Settle was playing the bubbly lead role on tour! After a second stint on the road as Bloody Mary in South Pacific, she overcame her fears and moved to New York.

Joy on Broadway: Settle made a glam Broadway debut in the ensemble of Priscilla Queen of the Desert before scoring the decidedly un-glitzy role of Norma in Hands on a Hardbody. Her show-stopping number “Joy of the Lord” begins with a nearly four-minute-long laughing attack, an unusual setup that Settle admits scares her “half to death.” As she explains, “You have to take over those minutes. If you don’t grab ‘em by the balls and throw it at the audience, you’re screwed. It takes everything out of me, and it’s scary as hell. Sca-ry!” The actress relies on the support of her close-knit castmates to knock the gospel number out of the park every night. “If they’re not on the truck with me, I can’t do that song,” she says modestly. “It takes a damn village to get a show on Broadway!”

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