By Erin Steele

Killeen Daily Herald

Johnny Cash met Johnny Paycheck on Wednesday night. Patsy Cline and Dale Evans were there, too. In fact, a whole cavalcade of country music icons took the stage together, singing their greatest hits in preparation of a toe-tapping weekend performance.

Well, maybe it wasnt the stars themselves, but the actors who play them in Vive Les Arts Theatres upcoming Legends in Heaven performance Tuesday for their first full dress rehearsal before the curtains rise on the production. The Killeen arts hub will transform from a community theater to the Grand Ole Opry beginning at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, offering up a healthy helping of honky-tonk heaven.

Featuring a lineup of everyone from Conway Twitty to Elvis Presley to Tennessee Ernie Ford, the production designed as a fundraiser for the childrens theater is all about people-pleasing tunes.

I thought, To heck with the material, said VLA Artistic Director Eric Shephard, who had seen other biographical musicals including Lost Highway about Hank Williams and Stand by Your Man about Tammy Wynette fall victim to too much story and not enough song.

If people are coming to hear the music anyway, than what would be better than a show about Hank Williams or a show about Patsy Cline or a show about Tammy Wynette? Well, a show that has them all.

The Dolly Parton song Hillbilly Heaven inspired the framework for the Shephard-written production, with the wigged warbler serving as the audiences guide through a star-studded afterlife. During the dress rehearsal, the actors prepared to assume their onstage alter egos in front of a live audience.

Its been so much fun, said Karen Weiss, who is playing Son of a Preacher Man crooner Skeeter Davis. Its all the music I grew up listening to. And listening to everyone else sing their parts will be great.

Paul Wikoff, a VLA member who is playing Jim Reeves, said Legends is a musical that audiences of all ages should see.

If its a young person, they can get in touch with some of the older music, Wikoff said. And for older folks, they can enjoy the music they listened to years ago.

Some of the other country stars whose songs will be featured in Legends include Dottie West, Keith Whitley, Roy Acuff, John Denver, Charlie Rich, Gary Stewart, Waylon Jennings, Wynette, Williams, Roger Miller, Minnie Pearl, and the Carter family.

Tickets are $25, with premium seats available for $50. The premium seats include a backstage pass, which enables the audience to mingle with the cast. A reception will be held at 7 p.m. each night and is open to the audience.

For more information, call the VLA box office at 526-9090.

Contact Erin Steele at

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