Ring of Fire is back and it’s hotter than ever.
The production takes you through Johnny Cash’s life from his family’s early days of cotton-picking poverty in rural Arkansas to his rise as an American music icon, along the way dealing with tragic loss, falling in love, facing addiction and personal demons and finding wisdom and deep religious faith.
The show was marked by incredible performances and harmony between the talented cast members, as well as top-notch instrumental accompaniment. In all there were more than three dozen Cash songs performed ranging from ‘Daddy Sang Bass’ to ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’ and gospel standards that defined the religious side of Cash like ‘Angel Band’ and ‘Will the Circle Be Unbroken?’ were very well done. Another highlight included a duet of ‘I Still Miss Someone’ between Cash (Timothy Brummund) and Cash’s first wife Vivian Liberto (Andrea Cross) that blended their voices exquisitely across the stage in the melancholy tune.
The audience clapped along during upbeat gospel songs and during the lively duets between the younger Cash (Jonas Shandel) and his second wife June Carter (Samantha Currie) like ‘Jackson.’ The song ‘I’ve Been Everywhere’ was enormously impressive and catchy, with Shandel, Currie and Brummund switching in to zip through verses of the geographic smorgasbord of a song.
Shandel does most of the singing as the younger Cash, while Brummund is the narrator and the grown-up, reflective Cash looking back on his life and love. The rest of the cast lends their voice and talents to supporting roles musically and through scenework.
The love story between Cash and Carter forms the anchor of the show, with the duet “Far Side Banks of Jordan,” closing the show as June (Currie) foretells that if she dies first (which she did) she’ll wait in Heaven for Cash.
The audience rose in several standing ovations at the end, leading to an encore performance of ‘A Boy Named Sue.’
The cast includes artists who will be familiar to the audience and newcomers to the festival stage, including Brummund, Shandel, Currie, Cross, Alexander Baerg, Scott Carmichael, Daniel Kosub and Mark MacRae.
Outstanding work was also done behind the scenes, from set/projection designer Erin Gruber, costume designer Crystal Hanson, sound designer Paul Tedeschini, live mixer Andrew Nicholls, lighting designer Rebekah Johnson, stage manager Anne Taylor and apprentice stage manager Linzi Voth.
Conceived by William Meade and created by Richard Maltby Jr., Ring of Fire is a musical biography about hitting rock bottom and finding the faith to carry on. Chemainus Theatre has done a brilliant job in bringing it back for a second season and Cash fans and newcomers alike will be wowed by the show.
Ring of Fire runs until April 23 with both evening and matinee shows. For tickets call 1-800-565-7738 or visit www.chemainustheatre.ca.