George Strait's 'Pure Country' Finds New Home

Stage Production Premieres This Week in Texas

Harley Jay has some big boots to fill. George Strait's boots, to be exact.

Jay is the actor/singer who is going to play the same role that Strait played 25 years ago when the movie Pure Country was released.

Strait was Dusty in the movie, and Jay will be Rusty in the musical. So the name may be a little different, but the story line of the jaded country star who is trying to rediscover his roots and find love is very much intact.

Part of the reason for that is because the story has stood the test of time. But it's also because the people behind the 1992 film are some of the same ones behind the new musical.

Steve Dorff and John Bettis who wrote the songs -- the ones that went on to be signature hits for Strait like "Heartland" and "I Cross My Heart" -- on the best-selling movie soundtrack came together to collaborate on 18 new songs for the Pure Country musical.

And Rex McGee, who wrote the screenplay, is the one putting on the musical.

McGee told that back when he started to write the Pure Country screenplay, he spent most of his days (and nights) getting to know Strait.

"He didn't look anything like a fancy actor, and he was just so shy and unassuming. But he was a legend in training at the time," McGee said of Strait. "There was an influx of a lot of new country artists at the time. Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Clint Black, Tim McGraw, and they were getting all of the attention. And George was being slightly eclipsed by all that.

"This movie was made to help get George back in the spotlight, which it did."

What has changed from movie to musical, according to McGee, is that the story is more dramatic. And now, everybody sings.

"Lulu sings, Harley sings, Grandma sings. And there's no barrel racing: there's just no stage big enough for barrel racing," he laughed.

The show opens Friday (June 9) at the Irving Arts Center's Carpenter Performance Hall just outside of Dallas. Tickets are available at the center's official website.

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