Rock musical "Hands on a Hard Body"

Arizona Broadway Theatre is home to one of the state’s only dine-in theaters. In a way, it’s also home to actress Madison Cichon.

Working with the Arizona Broadway Theatre has been a huge part of the Phoenix native’s life. After seeing H.M.S. Pinafore with her grandparents during the venue’s second season, she was hooked.

A Sandra Day O’Connor High School graduate, Cichon spent several years in Arizona Broadway Theatre’s Academy for Young Performers, appearing in 2009’s A Christmas Carol and then going on to perform in The Sound of Music and Shrek. She eventually landed a job in its box office.

Now, Cichon is playing Kelli Mangrum in Hands on a Hardbody, a musical based on a true story about 10 Texans competing to win a vehicle. Their challenge? Keep one hand on the brand-new truck for the longest amount of time.

“It’s about the truck,” Cichon said. “For each and every one of them, the truck means the world. It means moving forward in their lives.”

Playing through September 24, the musical features 10 contestants, all of whom share their stories and stakes through country and blues music.

Cichon said she has a lot in common with 22-year-old Kelli, whom she describes as a well-prepared and headstrong.

“The reason she’s at this competition is to get out of where she is, to move forward and find new things,” she said. “She’s been in this small town in Texas her entire life. I’ve been in Phoenix my entire life and I’m excited to see what the future holds.”

Cichon has always found herself close to musicals. The first show she attended was Annie at age 2.

“I was dancing up the aisles and, ever since then, I’ve been in love with it,” she said with a laugh.

She now lives a double life, splitting her time between acting and attending Grand Canyon University. While it’s tough balancing the two, she said it’s ultimately worth it.

“I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Cichon said. “I love having a busy schedule and I love being a student and performer. I wouldn’t give it up.”

Even though she has several roles under her belt, Cichon admits she still gets nervous before every show.

“It’s good nerves,” she said. “It always propels a good performance and it makes you want to work harder.”

She loves the realistic nature of theater, especially with the real-life characters in Hands on a Hardbody. She said audience members will relate to the characters.

“It’s not only a fun show, but you feel for these characters because you can find something you have in common with them,” she said.

“They’re real people and it’s their real experiences and what they want in the world.”