“Ring of Fire” directed by Brian Maschka is the opening show of the Crossroads Repertory Theatre’s summer season. The lights come up with eight actors on the New Theatre’s thrust stage, each claiming that they are Johnny Cash. None of them sound quite like him and especially the four women don’t sound like him at all. Frankly, it takes a while for the message to sink in but as the talented cast sings, acts and dances through the Cash catalogue each put his or her stamp on the story. Crossroads Rep’ is back in ISU’s refurbish New Theatre and the show makes good use of Chris Berchild’s efforts with the venues enhanced sound system and the opportunities that the newly installed lighting offered Lee Fiskness.
Cash’s “Country Boy” makes a good humored intro for all and yet hard work, danger and mortality are part of his life. The death of Cash’s brother Jack, Matt Schludecker with his talk of angels to mother Eileen Earnest was an especially moving moment. The drama of flooding, nothing strange to us here in Indiana, was effectively presented in “Five Feet High and Rising,” followed by “Big River.” The fine singer and veteran Crossroads actor Dave Davis manfully tried for low notes on “Daddy Sang Bass” answered by Eileen Earnest as the tenor. Later Davis also played electric bass with the band led by ISU’s Mark Carlisle. Jo Garcia-Reger had a lovely solo moment with “I Still Miss Someone.”
Choreographer Teresa McCullough got everyone up and dancing for an energetic “Get Rhythm” that also included traditional play party dances. Johnny Cash’s years at the Grand Olde Opry were saluted with Isabella Collins singing of “Flushed from the Bathroom of Your Heart” and Zene Colson presenting his “Egg Suckin’ Dog.” The first act ended with the spirited duet “Jackson.”
Act two of Ring of Fire opened with the men, now all dressed in black with the women in more colorful outfits courtesy of costume designer Bianca Perez. The male quartet sang the good natured “Hey Porter” followed by Kris Kristofferson’s rueful “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” The mood again changed quickly with “Delia’s Gone” and then segued into a richly rhythmic “Orleans Parish Prison” transitioning to “Folsom Prison Blues.” The somber “Man in Black” was nicely followed with the gospel “Why Me Lord” followed by an instrumental and then the comical “Boy Named Sue.”
There was still time for a tribute to song with “Tennessee Flat-Top Box,” the hit “I Walk the Line” and the patriotic tribute of the “Ragged Old Flag.” This left the audience still wanting a bit more and the cast finished the show off with an energetic and multi parted “I’ve Been Everywhere.”
Ring of Fire offers a talented cast, a hard working band and a creative presentations of three dozen of the songs that Johnny Cash wrote or sang during his long career. It loosely follows his developing life with a bit of insightful history. If you’re a Johnny Cash fan or you think you might like to learn a bit more about him, this is the show for you.
This weekend Crossroads presents Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in a production for our times directed by Lauren Morris.
Ring of Fire returns for evening performances on Wednesday July 10th, Saturday July 13th and in a Crossroads’ season closing matinee on Sunday the 14th
At the theatre for you, I’m George Walker