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Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash

Created by Richard Maltby, Jr.
Conceived by William Meade
Orchestrations by Steven Bishop & Jeff Lisenby
Directed by Sherry Lutken
July 20-August 14, 2016
Leonard C. Haas Stage

REGIONAL PREMIERE. David Lutken, star of the hit show Woody Sez, returns to lead a musical mosaic of the life and career of Johnny Cash—a dark, driving, and exuberant ride along his nostalgic track of family, music, humor, tragedy, colorful characters, sins and redemption. Songs like Folsom Prison Blues, Hey Porter, Far Side Banks of Jordan, Country Boy, Sunday Morning Coming Down, I’ve Been Everywhere and I Walk the Line tell the story not just of the “Man in Black” but also his muses and musings, too: the sidetracks, branch lines, backwoods, and wide open road of an American music icon.

Approximate run time is 2 hours, including one 15-minute intermission. Best enjoyed by ages 12+.
















Scoop on Wednesdays: History, Context, and Gossip

Join us for a lively discussion before Wednesday 7:30pm performances. Resident Dramaturg Gina Pisasale will host an artist from the production and get the inside scoop about such things as the rehearsal and production process, design choices, and the world of the play. The program begins at 6pm in The Farmhouse Bistro on July 27, August 3, and 10. Cost of $15 includes light fare.
Call the Box Office at 610.644.3500.

Dinner & A Show Packages

Enjoy a prix fixe dinner and a show package for $73 (Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday matinee, Sunday evening) and $82 (Friday, Saturday evening, Sunday matinee) at The Farmhouse Bistro prior to the Wed-Sun evening performances. That's a savings of up to 15% off the single ticket price. Click here to view the menu.

Eric Scott Anthony*
Jon Brown
Nyssa Duchow
Michael Hicks*
David M. Lutken*
Deb Lyons*
Helen J. Russell*
Sam Sherwood*
Neil Friedman* (through 8/7/16)
Scott Sowers* (from 8/9/16)
Director: Sherry Lutken
Set Design: James F. Pyne, Jr.
Costume Designer: Marla J. Jurglanis
Lighting Designer: Gregory Miller
Sound Designer: Lucas Fendlay
Music Director: Eric Scott Anthony
Production Stage Manager: Kate McSorley Fossner
Dramaturg: Gina Pisasale
Line Producer: Zak Berkman and Charles T. Brastow


* Member, Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers.

Reviews

Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire

by Steve Cohen, The Cultural Critic

People’s Light “Ring of Fire”: Sunnier side of The Man in Black

by Anders Back, Ticket to Entertainment

RING OF FIRE: THE MUSIC OF JOHNNY CASH (People’s Light): Singing the life of the ‘Man in Black’

by Debra Miller, Phindie

Review: ‘Ring of Fire’ at People’s Light in Malvern, PA

by Neal Newman, DC Metro Theater Arts

Get your money’s worth with songs of Cash

by Clark Groome, Chestnut Hill Local

Stellar ‘Ring of Fire’ is a cool delight at People’s Light

by Margie Royal, Delco Culture Vultures

Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash

by Judy Cohen, Beyond My Backyard

Theatre Review: ‘Ring Of Fire – The Music of Johnny Cash’ at People’s Light

by Leah Rosenzweig, PA Theatre Guide

In addition, critic Frank Burd says:

I wasn’t a big Johnny Cash fan when I was younger. I saw him as a singer of Country and Gospel music, and neither appealed to me. Then, in 1969, one of my music heroes, Bob Dylan, included Johnny Cash in his Nashville Skyline album. There I was, listening to them together singing “Girl from the North Country” and it altered my view of music.

As Dylan was expanding his range, so was Cash. Dylan’s songs had previously pulled me from folk music into rock. I loved his lyrics, and we used to joke that Bob Dylan gave the American people permission to sing. Well, in discovering Cash, I saw that he DID know how to sing, and I liked his songs. Ring of Fire is Johnny Cash’s music. He didn’t write them all, but he sang them all, and we know them as his.

In presenting Ring of Fire, People’s Light is not presenting the Johnny Cash story. They call it a musical mosaic, and that’s what it is. Thirty-nine songs flew through the evening on the shoulders of nine of the most talented people I’ve ever seen in musical theater. All nine danced, acted, sang, and played the 25 instruments on stage – from fiddle, guitar, and zither to harmonica, washboard, and washtub bass. Instruments were handed off after each song to different members of the ensemble as the tone changed.

They sang the songs that made Cash famous – “Folsom Prison Blues”, “Man in Black”, “Jackson”, “I Walk the Line”, “Boy Named Sue,” and of course, “Ring of Fire.” And when I say “they”, I mean all of them. Each song and story was enacted into a simple skit. Songs of love and jealousy made us laugh. Songs of survival, whether they were along a rising river or in prison, touched our hearts. There were funny songs. A group sings “I’ve Been Everywhere,” essentially a list of cities, with most of the cast shooting out names like stops on a speeding train.

A particularly funny skit accompanied “Boy Named Sue,” which I learned was written by Shel Silverstein (poet, cartoonist, author) for Jean Shepherd (male radio personality and story teller), who had been given the girl’s name, Jean.

Ring of Fire moves rapidly through different songs, styles, and genres. We watch the actors flee to high ground in “Five Feet High and Rising” as the river rises. We lament the loss of family in “Far Side Banks of Jordan.” One young man proudly sings to his deceased father, whose main goal in life was to have a bumper crop. With the song “Look at Them Beans,” he sings a tribute to his father when successful crop came in.

But it’s not one song or another that makes this a super night in the theater. It’s the experience of being entertained by a cast who shares Johnny Cash with us. Only a few of the Cash classics are sung by the performer with the Cash-like bass. David M. Lutken brings us closest to Cash’s voice. But the others in the ensemble sing with such energy and passion, that we are swept away to that collage of life that the evening offers.

Let me add one other thing. Even if you are not a Cash fan, the songs are so clean, so simple, they resonate clearly, that you don’t miss a lyric.

Cash and Dylan were friends for 40 years. One of Dylan’s songs, “It Ain’t Me Babe,” that Cash recorded, was part of the evening’s entertainment. It is yet another reminder how similar folk and country are. They express the poetry of life. To enjoy those words with such creative performances by the singer/musicians is a treat that should not be missed.



And from Steven Brodsky:

Some of my artist heroes have always been “outlaws.” Among them, from the music world, are Hank Williams, Billy Joe Shaver, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Bruce Springsteen, and the man of the hour at People’s Light, Johnny Cash. Unfettered by the constraints of conventionality and uniformity, each has blessed us with unique creative expression that often speaks to our own experiences and humanity.

The opening night audience for the People’s Light regional premiere of Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash rose in standing ovation for the performance. This family-friendly slice of the life, times, and music of Johnny Cash was met with an appreciative and celebratory response. I believe that Johnny Cash would be happy that his legacy matters to People’s Light audiences. His music encompasses a broad range of emotions, entertains and informs us, and brings us together despite our differences.