The play that started as a commemoration of Bob Wills' 100th birthday in 2005 is coming back to Austin for one final week of shows in February 2013. This first-ever musical drama about the legendary Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys debuted in Austin in 2005 and has since enjoyed great success in more than 70 performances in 19 cities.
In 1973, just after the release of Asleep at the Wheel's first album, young bandleader Ray Benson was invited to Dallas to meet the great Bob Wills. Upon his arrival, he learned Wills was not feeling well, and the meeting was postponed for the next morning. But the conversation Benson was so eager to have with his idol never happened; that same night Wills had a stroke and went into a life-ending coma. In A RIDE WITH BOB, Benson finally gets to have his long-anticipated conversation, albeit with the Spirit of Bob, who visits him on the Asleep at the Wheel bus late one night.
The fascinating and sometimes outrageous stories of Wills' career, his contribution to American music, and his raucous personal life unfold in thrilling theatrical detail, and through the process Benson rediscovers his own passion and commitment as a bandleader and standard-bearer for Western swing music. The drama includes live performances of 15 of Wills' most famous songs, including "San Antonio Rose," "Faded Love," "Cherokee Maiden," "Take Me Back to Tulsa," and many more.
Ray Benson comments "I can't think of a better way to bring the play back to Austin. The brand new Topfer Theatre will knock everyone's socks off. It is by far the most intimate, yet accessible space that we've ever presented in. A RIDE WITH BOB is going to swing once more in February!"
The two-act play features an all-star cast: Ray Benson (as himself), Asleep at the Wheel members including fiddler Jason Roberts (as young Bob Wills), and an all-star cast of actors including Marco Perella (as spirit of Bob Wills), Timothy Curry, Steve Uzzell, Walt Roberts, Taylor Maddux, rising star on the Austin music scene Ruby Jane Smith and 10-year-old fiddling virtuoso Colby Sheppard. Production credits also include CK McFarland (original production director), Robert Tolaro (production stage manager), Christopher McCollum (set designer), and Bill Peeler (lighting designer).
A RIDE WITH BOB debuted with six sold-out shows at the State Theater in Austin, Texas in 2005. It was an instant hit with audiences and critics, garnering several nominations from Austin Circle of Theaters Awards and fueling a four-city tour in Texas and Oklahoma that fall. In 2006, the show "rode high" into San Antonio, Ft. Worth, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. where President and Mrs. Bush were in attendance at the renowned Kennedy Center. Since then, the play has continued to introduce many to the legend of Bob Wills as well as remind others of a bygone era. Response to the play has been glowing. Liz Smith calls A RIDE WITH BOB, "The most entertaining night in Texas." And the Tulsa World wrote that the play is "...as raucous, spirited, and joyous as the music that inspired it." The Washington Post lauded the performance as "...crisp and rousing."