Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash
By Mark Hilton
It didn’t take long for the audience to show their approval for the Old Creamery Theatre’s Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash. Halfway through the production’s first number, “Country Boy,” the audience started tapping their toes and clapping their hands along to the beat. Ring of Fire brings audiences both the music and the biography of the legendary Johnny Cash. The cast, totaling six members, two of whom performed in the original Broadway production, plays through 29 songs from Cash’s catalog with verve and precision.
Between songs the cast members move about the stage, changing and exchanging instruments, all while narrating the story of Cash’s life. A mere concert this is not. The cast are not just talented musicians, but talented actors as well, and they use those dramatic skills to bring life to the lyrics of Cash’s songs. Yes, Ring of Fire includes all the Cash hits you know and love, but the lesser-known songs more than earn their place alongside classics like “I Walk the Line” and “Man in Black.” This is a credit to the cast, which plays through each song as if it’s the most important one on the set-list.
The Old Creamery’s Main Stage was outfitted with a simple, two-tiered wooden platform and an array of instruments ranging from the traditional to the less so—a bucket and chain are used to great effect. The backdrop changed over the course of the performance to reflect the different phases of Cash’s career. A mock-up of the Grand Ole Opry was used to represent Cash’s emergence onto the country music scene, while a razor wire fence and blue lighting reinforced the mood for songs like “Folsom Prison Blues.” The audience at the Friday, May 2 performance gave the performers a standing ovation and many simply couldn’t resist singing along to the Cash recording of “Ring of Fire” as it accompanied their exit from the theatre.
This is a can’t miss show that will have Cash’s classic songs resonating in your head for days.
IF YOU GO
What: Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash
Where: Old Creamery Theatre, 39 38th Avenue, Amana, 52203
When: Through May 25; 2 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday; 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Tickets: $28 for adults or $18.50 for students, Old Creamery Box Office, 319.622.6262 or www.oldcreamery.com