The ultimate tribute to the iconic Johnny Cash is coming to the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre next week.
“Ring of Fire,” an adaption from the Broadway show, tells the story of finding love, success, faith and redemption. A co-production of Western Canada Theatre and the Chemainus Theatre Festival, “Ring of Fire” includes all of Cash’s classic hits, including “I Walk the Line,” “A Boy Named Sue,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” and the title tune.
The Man in Black himself is played by Jonas Shandel and audiences will recognize co-cast member Zachary Stevenson from The Buddy Holly Story and Class of ’59.
Writer Richard Maltby, Jr. remembers how the project started: “Bill Meade got the idea for putting the music of Johnny Cash on the stage. Many people had approached Johnny over the years, but only Bill’s idea convinced him, and just before he died in 2003, Johnny Cash gave Bill the stage rights to this material.”
“When Bill asked me to create the theatrical show out of the music of Johnny Cash, he gave me a stack of CDs and books about two feet high (and rising). I listened and read and began to think, and several things became immediately clear.
“First, we shouldn’t attempt to put Johnny Cash himself on stage. The persona, the voice, are not duplicable, and the very best we could achieve would be a poor imitation.
“Second, as fascinating as Johnny Cash’s life was, it seemed to me that dramatizing it on stage would not enhance it. A film could do that, perhaps, and indeed there was a movie coming out called ‘I Walk the Line,’ which would probably dramatize his life very well.”
To Maltby, Cash’s biography wasn’t the most important story available to tell.
“Taking all the songs together, adding in the life he led, the person he was, the people he knew, loved, and sang about, it seemed to me that there was another story here. It’s almost a mythic American tale — of growing up in simple, dirt-poor surroundings in the heartland of America, leaving home, traveling on wings of music, finding love, misadventure, success, faith, redemption, and the love of a good woman—and eventually returning home. It’s about the journey of a man in search of his own soul, which is in fact what emerges when you consider all the details of Cash’s life together. That seemed to be a worthy story to put on a stage — and the best part is we could tell it entirely through the songs.”
Maltby says that though ‘Ring of Fire’ doesn’t dramatize Johnny Cash’s life, by the end of the show the audience will feel that they have spent the evening in the presence of an extraordinary, real man.
Ring of Fire plays Wednesday, March 15, at the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre. Tickets are $35 and are available at ArtFirst! and revelstokeartscouncil.bigcartel.com.