THEATER REVIEW: “Ring of Fire” @ Capital Repertory Theatre [Berkshire on Stage]
Review by Roseann Cane
Photograph by Doug Liebig
There are rare occasions when audience hooting, hollering and foot-stomping add to the enjoyment of a night of theater, and Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash, which just opened at the Capital Repertory Theatre, is a sterling example of just such a treat.
One of the reasons this show is so delightfully infectious is that instead of relying on the common conceit of a musical tribute show in casting an actor in the role of the singer (a risky undertaking when the artist is fresh in the audience’s memory), Ring of Fire has a cast of six singing, acting musicians, five men who at various times represent Cash but more often celebrate his music in their own way, and one women, who sometimes represents June Carter Cash, but for the most part sings, dances and plays the hell out of the music.
Each of the cast members (Bill Scott Sheets, Kurt Zischke, Erikka Walsh, Jacob Shipley, Paul Wyatt and Josh D. Smith, in order of appearance) has the vocal chops to take on a wide variety of songs that range from country to gospel to well-known compositions of Cash and a few other songwriters. Their voices are superb, whether performing such novelties as “Dirty Old Egg Sucking Dog” and “Flushed From the Bathroom of Your Heart” or celebrated Cash standards like “Folsom Prison Blues,” “I Walk the Line” and “Ring of Fire.”
What’s more, these sensational performers accompany themselves on instruments ranging from guitars and fiddles to washboard and spoons. The band (Joe Barna on drums; Patrick O’Connell on bass and fiddle; and musical director Josh D. Smith on keyboards, autoharp, melodicas, Andes flute and accordion) that supports them is top notch.