IF YOU GO
• What: 'Ring of Fire'
• When: Aug. 8-Oct. 19
• Where: Cumberland County Playhouse, 221 Tennessee Ave., Crossville, Tenn.
• Admission: $12-$25
• Phone: 931-484-5000
• Website: www.ccplayhouse.com
“Ring of Fire” may not provide the most minute detail about the late singer/songwriter Johnny Cash, but it doesn’t miss much of his music.
The musical, which runs from today, Aug. 8, through Saturday, Oct. 19, at the Cumberland County Playhouse, is neither biography nor concert but something more.
“So much of the music that Johnny Cash did was story songs that had character and plot and all of the elements of story,” says John Fionte, the theater’s director of marketing and new work. “When they’re put together in this manner, they do create their own story.”
Although it traces The Man in Black through his roots in Arkansas to his iconic status, it is, in fact, told without a character named Cash. Instead, four couples — perhaps representing stages of life — play out the story of a young man and woman who fall in love, marry and reach the golden years of their lives together.
“The actual dynamics of the relationship span a pretty large arc [of time],” he says. “It is taken care of, and defined by, the songs, by their lyrics and by the way the show has been put together. It is not a relationship kind of show. It has a larger feel, a larger sense. Because of the music of Cash, you feel like you’re a participant in an American kind of journey.”
The several dozen songs in the show include Cash’s “Country Boy,” “A Thing Called Love,” “Five Feet High and Rising,” “Daddy Sang Bass,” “Ring of Fire,” “I Walk the Line,” “I’ve Been Everywhere,” “The Man in Black” and his final hit, “Hurt.”
Kellye Cash, a former Miss Tennessee, Miss America and the singer’s great-niece, will make a special appearance in the show. The recording artist previously starred at the theater in “Always, Patsy Cline” and has appeared in various regional theater productions.
Fionte says “Ring of Fire,” with virtually no dialogue, is not a book, or script dialogue, show. However, with a lot of material covered, it “almost feels like a book show.”
“It definitely transverses a story arc,” he says. “While it is not what we think of as a traditional Broadway musical with a book, that’s not a bad thing. There is a sense of intimacy, a sense of immediacy.” Yet, “because of its form and structure, you get the same kind of energy as you do at a concert — still within the context of a theatrical show.”
Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.