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Broadway veterans Jesse Nager and Patrice Covington will open the Rylander Theatre’s 2019-20 season at 8 p.m. Friday by bringing stories and sounds of Aretha Franklin and Smokey Robinson to the stage in “Cruising Steady.”

AMERICUS — The Rylander Theatre’s 2019-20 season will be on “cruise control” when the curtain rises at 8 p.m. Friday for a tribute to the soulful music of Aretha Franklin and Smokey Robinson.

This season also marks the 20th year that the theater has been in operation since its renovation and reopening on Oct. 1, 1999.

“Cruising Steady: The Music & Friendship of Aretha Franklin and Smokey Robinson” will be the first of six shows in the 2019-20 Friends of the Rylander Presenter Series.

“The friendship between Smokey and Aretha is such a sweet story and almost everyone loves their music, so I felt like this was a great way to kick off the new season,” Rylander Director Heather Stanley said.

Broadway stars Patrice Covington (“The Color Purple,” “Dreamgirls”) and Jesse Nager (“Motown the Musical,” “Mary Poppins”) will bring stories about Franklin and Robinson and their deep friendship to the stage, punctuated with the marvelous sounds that made them musical icons.

“I think this is one everyone will love,” Stanley said. “The neat thing about ‘Cruising Steady’ is Jesse Nager, who plays Smokey, is the same person who played him on Broadway in ‘Motown the Musical.’”

Songs the audience can expect to enjoy include “Respect,” “I Second That Emotion,” “Chain of Fools,” “My Girl,” and many more.

Nager and Covington, who met while performing in “Motown the Musical,” were able to get critical firsthand information on the famous vocalists in preparation for their stage roles.

“They had the opportunity to meet Smokey Robinson and Aretha Franklin and talk to them,” Stanley said.

Nager also is already familiar with the Rylander stage.

“He was with ‘The Broadway Boys’ when they performed at the Rylander in 2015,” Stanley said. “That’s always exciting when paths cross again.”

Tickets for the show are $25 for reserved seating, or patrons can join the Friends of the Rylander at the $100 level or higher and receive tickets to the six shows this season.

Stanley says the memberships are encouraged because they support not just the programming, but the preservation of the historic theater, which originally opened in 1921 in downtown Americus.

“When you buy a membership, part of it goes toward restoration projects and preservation,” she said.

The Rylander box office is available at (229) 931-0001 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays. Ticket also can be purchased online at

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