As someone who has enjoyed the legendary Johnny Cash performing live on stage, I consider myself an extra tough critic in regard to any entertainer trying to recreate the musical magic this man shared with his fans.
Add to this equation the attempt to also resurrect the talents of his wonderful wife June Carter, and it would seem like a challenging assignment to assure success.
My last time seeing both Johnny Cash and wife June perform on stage together was in December 1993 when I took my parents with me when I reviewed the famed couple of country music's Christmas concert at the Lake Michigan College Mendel Center for Performing Arts in Benton Harbor, Mich. (We lost both Johnny and June the same year, a decade later in 2003.)
I can honestly say, I bet both Johnny and June are smiling down from above with the entertaining and on-target tributes they are receiving at Theatre at the Center in Munster with the new run of "Ring of Fire -The Music of Johnny Cash."
From the iconic songbook of Johnny Cash comes this unique musical revue, clocking in at just under two hours, including one 15-minute intermission, about the Man in Black, his devoted wife and the love and faith, struggle and success, rowdiness and redemption during his life's persona and professional journey.
This fantastic production not only will impress Cash fans, but also please audiences of all ages and generations for this rare chance to catch this Chicagoland premiere.
"Ring of Fire" launches the 2014 season at Theatre at the Center and the musical revue showcasing more than 30 of Cash's songs, runs until March 30.
Featured are everything from "I Walk the Line," "A Boy Named Sue," "Folsom Prison Blues" and the title song" to "If I Were a Carpenter," "Man in Black" and "Big River."
Even though the cast isn't intending to do a Las Vegas "impersonator" homage to these Grand Ole Opry favorites, they remain talented transformations of both the spirits and souls of Cash and Carter.
And there's no denying that Michael Goodman, who plays "Young Johnny" is a spittin' image of Cash. (I've included my own personally autographed photo of a young Johnny Cash for readers to compare.) The older Johnny Cash, who does much of the show narration, is wonderfully played by Kent Lewis, with the Jeff Award-winner Cory Goodrich starring as June Carter in the role of a lifetime. Goodrich not only personifies June, but she strums a lap harp and plucks a guitar while singing with beautiful precision.
Brian Russell offers a fine-tuned direction, while the musical direction by Malcolm Ruhl, who shares the stage with the rest of the talent, matches his creative force. The design team includes Scenic Designer Angie Miller's breath-taking Americana set, along with wonderful lighting design by Shelley Strasser-Holland and striking costume design by Brenda Winstead.
Tickets are $40 to $44 at (219) 836-3255 or TheatreAtTheCenter.com.