Upon hearing the news of her Tony Award nomination, Keala was quoted about her reaction on the theatre web site Playbill Online. "I just got up, and it felt like Christmas Day….It's amazing. It's kind of overwhelming...It's very humbling because I know that we're not open anymore. I also know that the show that we did had a message, and we worked our tail ends off, and just the fact that we got nominations for itthose three nominations (Hands on a Hardbody received three nominations total) that we gotit was just proof that we did have a piece of theatre that said something, that meant something... We're not open, but we told a story, and there are nominations to prove it. Just that alone is enough for mejust incredible."
The New York Times hailed Keala as "winning, big-voiced" and said that her song "Joy of the Lord" as "a cappella gospel hootenanny, is one of the show's few out-and-out upbeat songs." The Hollywood Reporter praised Keala as well, "The standout…is the mighty-lunged Settle's rousing Hallelujah chorus, 'Joy of the Lord.'" The Los Angeles Times proclaimed, "Settle's Norma is anything but stoic especially when she's delivering the rousing 'Joy of the Lord' number. But she cuts just as moving a figure, and even the secular will likely find something uplifting in her faith, which is too genuine to depend on answered prayers."
Inspired by true events, Hands on a Hardbody featured a book by Doug Wright (Pulitzer Prize winner, I Am My Own Wife), lyrics by Amanda Green (Bring it On: The Musical) and music by Trey Anastasio (Phish) and Amanda Green.
At SUU, Keala Settle was in the Department of Theatre Arts & Dance productions of "South Pacific" and "Nunsense." After SUU, Keala won praise for her performances as Tracey Turnblad and Bloody Mary in the national tours of the award-winning productions of "Hairspray the Musical" and the Lincoln Center revival of Rogers and Hammerstein's "South Pacific." Keala made her Broadway debut in the ensemble of the musical adaptation of "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" in 2011.