Ring of Fire Keeps You Humming

by Jason Slaughter

It has been a long time since I treated myself to a night of theatre. Last night I walked into the Lincoln Community Playhouse to see the production of Ring of Fire.  I didn’t know much about this show at all, other than has music of the legendary man, Johnny Cash.  I was greeted with a beautiful set of a house and some old country songs playing in the background that gave me a mood of a relaxing time on the porch listening to radio of a bygone era.  Before the show, the executive director came out and dared us to google Johnny Cash’s childhood home, insisting that we would see this exact same house that was on the stage. And he was right; it was like seeing something out of a museum!

This is not your ordinary musical theatre show. The structure of the show is like a jukebox of great songs, with some history of Johnny’s life mixed in.  It does start at the beginning of Johnny Cash’s life with some history of his childhood, his time at the Grand Ole Opry, his drug habit, and marriage to June Carter.  If you think it will be like the movie Walk the Line, just try to erase that from your mind.  This is something actually quite different and more enjoyable.  At the beginning of the show, the executive director put it plainly, this is “sitting by the porch” and listening to an amazing concert.  And after a hard week of work I really enjoyed this kind of idea of getting a bunch of people sitting around and listening to some amazing music from an amazing group of artists.  The talent on display is worth the price of admission.

The cast of this show amazed me with their raw talent.  To watch these actors/musicians play together is a sight to behold.  You almost wanted to get closer to them and have them play for hours upon hours.  The five actors all have the spirit of Johnny Cash inside of them. Noah Gose is a talent to behold. He really impressed me with his talent on the guitar, and his singing voice has such a range. Chloe Gose was the embodiment of June Carter and Johnny Cash’s mother, but honestly she provided the center of this production.  Her performance just left you mesmerized. Stephen Cantarero, the bassist, made me chuckle from time to time, but I was in awe of his work on the standup bass. Tim Tidball really stood out with his mandolin playing and his strength in singing as well. Brian Foley to me embodied the Johnny Cash of old. In his performance you got to see the mileage of Johnny Cash’s life, and another wonderful voice to sing some of his classics. 

Jamie Bullins who took on the roles of director, scenic designer, and costume designer made sure that his vision melded perfectly together with the talent he had.  Like I said before, the set was perfect. You could almost smell the apple pie from the windows. You almost wanted to walk into the house and see if Johnny was home. The light design was very well done; on all the songs it created the correct mood of the scene.  There was only one major costume change where all the actors were in period shirts for the Grand Ole Opry section and the prison section. The main clothing though was in the style of Johnny Cash’s black motif and that fit with the concert feeling of the show. Some of the sound effects were a bit jarring, but they were not out of place.  I thought the mix of the actors’ voices and instruments was really done well. The combination of all of these elements made the experience wonderful. 

If you are not a fan of country music or don’t know much of Johnny Cash’s music, you will be a knowledgeable fan by the end of this show.  It is a great theatre experience and you will want to go and download Johnny Cash’s music after you leave. I just wish the names of the songs were in the program, because I personally don’t know all of his music. I wanted to mark down the song I just listened to so I can go and get the music for my iTunes playlist.  I am still humming a lot of the songs many hours after this performance.

 If you go: Ring of Fire has remaining shows September 7-8, 13-15, and 20-22. Friday and Saturday shows are at 7:30 pm, with Sunday matinees at 2:00 pm, all at the Lincoln Community Playhouse, located at 2500 South 56th Street in Lincoln. Tickets are available at the box office and online.

Jason Slaughter works at the Allstate campus,  loves the performing arts, and above all else, he is a Dad. 

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