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Will Rogers remembered

Actor Jason Edwards is well-aware that some people who come to The Will Rogers Follies, a Life in Revue at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre may have actually seen the cowboy philosopher, who died in a plane crash 70 years ago.

"That's even more of a challenge for me," Edwards said during a break in rehearsal last week.

Edwards has played Rogers six times before, not counting a stint he did as country singer Larry Gatlin's understudy in the role on the national tour. He twirls a lariat, strums the guitar, sings, acts and does a little footwork, just like Rogers himself.

Follies has Rogers returning from heaven to put on one more show with his frequent backer, Florenz Ziegfeld. The show is based on Rogers' life _ his happy marriage to Betty Blake (Kelly Atkins); his four children (Teddy Toye, Alexis Beetz, Evan Julian, Matthew Romeo); his dad, Clem (Allan Baker); and his friend Wiley Post (Chuck Cantrell). Rogers' long and prolific stage, movie and radio careers, as well as his more than 4,000 newspaper columns, are remembered in the show.

Ziegfeld's dancers _ seven women and five men _ provide glamor.

Set designer Tom Hansen has built the stage-width lighted stairs for the Ziegfeld Girls, and also painted an original portrait of Rogers on the opening curtain.

The Will Rogers Follies, a Life in Revue shows matinees and evenings Friday through Feb. 20 at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre, 16128 U.S. 19, Hudson. Dinner and show, $39.50; show only, $28.45; 12 and younger, $21.95 and $16.95, all plus tax and tip. Call (727) 863-7949 in west Pasco; toll free elsewhere at 1-888-655-7469.

_ BARBARA FREDRICKSEN, Times staff writer