Monday, June 23, 2014

Man in Black Joyfully Celebrated


“Ring of Fire” a Joy to Behold at Arts Garage

Wow! Just wow.

That seems to be the best way to describe “Ring of Fire: The Johnny Cash Musical” at Arts Garage in Delray Beach through July 13.
Despite the title, “Ring of Fire” is not as much about Johnny Cash the man as it is about the great American music he loved. If you want a Johnny Cash biography, check out the movie “I Walk the Line,” with Joaquin Phoenix as the Man in Black.
You will hear “I Walk the Line” in Act Two of this musical revue as part of a recreation of the Grand Ole Opry. Recently the 1956 song was recently voted the best country song of all time by Rolling Stone readers.
You will also hear "Man in Black" and the title song, “Ring of Fire,” which Cash wrote with his beloved wife June Carter. In all there are 40 tunes Cash either wrote or made famous.
“Ring of Fire” is performed by a cast of three women and five men, performing in couples, en masse and separately. Each performer is a multi-instrumentalist and singer. Watching performers switch instruments is part of the charm of this show. The show is co-directed by Sherry Lutken and her husband David M. Lutken, who is also onstage singing deep bass parts and playing a variety of stringed instruments. The musical director, who also sings and plays keyboards, is Eric Anthony, who directed the show for its brief Broadway run.
If there is a utility player it is little Nyssa Duchow, a classically-trained musician who plays country-style fiddle and guitar and mandolin and accordion all while singing in a lovely soprano voice.
The other two women are Broadway professionals Deb Lyons and Helen Jean Russell, who plays both autoharp and upright bass.
Neil Friedman, who is artist-in-residence at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, plays the all-purpose gruff, tough Southern guy. According to Sam Sherwood’s bio he has loved Johnny Cash’s music all his life, and it shows in his enthusiasm. Jon Brown is a veteran of the country-musical “Pump Boys and Dinettes” and has written his own rock musical.
Conceived by William Meade and created by Richard Maltby, Jr., “Ring of Fire” covers the Southern Music waterfront from traditional gospel to folk to rock ‘n’ roll. The versatility of the musician-singers is dazzling. I have not seen such a concentration of talent live onstage in many years. “Ring of Fire” is a joy to behold even if you don’t give a fig about Johnny Cash.
Tickets are $30-$45. Call 561-450-6357 or go to

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