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Ring of Fire - The Johnny Cash Musical

A Review

by lyle e davis

Well, they sang some Johnny Cash songs. Not particularly well, but they did sing 'em. So I guess, technically, they can call it "The Johnny Cash Musical."

But it wasn't very good.

We left at Intermission. It was that bad.

I was disappointed the moment I entered the theater at the Center for the Arts, Escondido. It was less than 25% full and it was about five minutes before showtime. Perhaps, I thought, the audience that never showed up knew something we didn't.

All the promotional material looked well done. The program is a first class, glossy, work of art. But there were very few fannies in seats.

Now, I think I understand why.

The show opened with a very clever full stage screen effect, with actors behind it, in shadow, but in rotating baby spotlights, reciting lines from Cash's life. Not bad. When the screen lifted, the set on stage was well done, nice back-lighting, all designed to set the proper mood.

And then the mood was broken when "Johnny Cash" appeared on the wing of the stage, in a baby spotlight and said, "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash." He had black boots, pants, and a black swallowtail coat, with white shirt. But he was blond, didn't look or sound anything like Johnny Cash.

A tribute show is supposed to have an actor/singer who resembles and sounds like the original.

It went downhill from there.

The musicians who backed up the actors/singers were outstanding. That's about the only good thing I can say about the production.

The singing was barely adequate, the choreography was less than adequate, the acting was not quite high school level, the book, which told Cash's story, was reasonably accurate but was not told nor performed well.

They had two female actors that was excessive by a factor of, approximately, one.

June Carter Cash was the key lady in Cash's life. She was a brunette. June Carter Cash was played in this production by a blond. The brunette actress would have been a better choice, but not by much.

None of the singers were much to write home about. They neither looked the part, nor sounded the part. The costumes were early Salvation Army . . . in sum, there was not much incentive to stay for Act II.

I reckon, as we say down south, that Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash would be rolling over in their graves were they able to view and listen to this production. At a minimum, they would cringe.

In fairness, it was not a local production but one brought in by an independent producer. If he comes to your locale with this show - run away.

The California Center for the Arts, Escondido, has staged some outstanding entertainments. This was not one of them.

It's probably the worst show I've seen in a long, long time. And I've been around for awhile.

Better you should get a good book, a CD of the real Johnny Cash, and settle down for some real entertainment.





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