In 2005, music legend Johnny Cash was further immortalized in the biopic Walk the Line. However, that same year, the musical Ring of Fire also made its debut, though to somewhat less acclaim. Created by Richard Maltby, Jr. and conceived by William Meade, this jukebox musical honors Cash’s life and legacy by featuring 38 of his songs in a telling arrangement. North Carolina Theatre’s production, directed by Randy Redd and featuring a gifted cast, beautifully brings the show to life and makes one wonder why it never got the attention it deserves.
The concert/musical starts with an appropriate medley of famous Cash lyrics. As those first sounds sprinkle across the stage, viewers also take in the lovely rustic wooden set with its background of blue sky peeking through the windows. And then, just like that, Cash’s raucous “Country Boy” bursts through the serenity in a wonderful way.
From there, it’s just one Cash hit after another, with a few quotes and stories from Cash’s life added in between for good measure. This careful blending of anecdotes and music adds a new dimension to both Cash and his songs. In fact, it’s what sets the show apart from being just a concert and transcends it into a unique sort of biography told through music.
Viewers witness the trajectory of the artist’s life and his sound in a piecemeal kind of way that somehow comes together beautifully. Plus, there are cool lighting effects, storming sounds, and other visual and auditory additions that help set the appropriate mood and tone throughout.
A diverse and talented band, formed specifically for this production, rolls with all the punches and honors Cash’s music in a way he’d be proud of. Austin Hohnke thrills with his rich, deep voice, while Jenna Moll Reyes infuses a whole new sound and style into the classic Cash lyrics. Rodolfo Soto also stands out in both musical skill and incredible charm. Performers Carrie Lyn Brandon and Miguel Ragel Wilson also present Cash’s music in a new and enlightening way.
Long-time Cash fans are sure to enjoy this incredible celebration of the artist. However, there’s no need to be a Cash devotee. The performances and beautiful musical stylings should render appreciation from all. In fact, anyone who wants a different kind of jukebox jaunt will find pleasure in the unique style and attention to detail this production offers.
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