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Entertainment & Lifestyle

Actors’ Summit celebrates music of Johnny Cash

5/8/2014 - West Side Leader
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By David Ritchey

From left, Dana Hart, Brian Mueller, Scott Davis and Jennifer Browning star in Actors’ Summit Theater’s “Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash.”
Photo: Bruce Ford
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Johnny Cash is the subject of Actors’ Summit Theater’s production of “Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash,” which is now playing through May 25 at the theater in Greystone Hall.

In truth, the music of Cash takes the stage more than he does. This evening in the theater is a musical revue and not a play.

Before the performance and at intermission, two TV screens were placed on either side of the playing area and showed clips of Cash and other people who were performers when he launched his career.

The “Ring of Fire” company includes Jennifer Browning, Scott Davis, Dana Hart and Brian Mueller. The three men took turns singing songs made famous by Cash. Browning sang songs related to Cash and his wife, June Carter Cash.

The backup musicians are J.T. Buck (keyboard), Scott Sexton (percussion) and Melanie Williams (trumpet).

The first act of the evening includes 19 songs, such as “Daddy Sang Bass,” “Old Rugged Cross,” “Big River,” “If I Were a Carpenter” and “Jackson.”

The second act includes 12 songs: “Folsom Prison Blues,” “I Walk the Line,” “Why Me Lord,” “A Boy Named Sue” and “Ring of Fire.”

The creators of the show are Richard Maltby Jr. (created by), William Meade (conceived by) and Steven Bishop (orchestration).

The show moved at a brisk pace, with few pauses between numbers. The four singers also accompanied themselves on guitars, banjo, accordion, washboard and a hammer, weights and chains.

Hart seemed best to evoke the memory of Cash. For moments in each of his solos, one could imagine Cash was on the stage. This is because Hart, dressed in black, brought back memories of Cash and in some parts of his performance sounded like Cash.

Davis and Mueller sang the Cash songbook without attempting to create Cash on the stage. Their performances were honest, forthright and never imitated Cash’s voice or style.

Browning had an easier time of performing in this show. She doesn’t have to pretend to be Cash or Carter Cash. She simply charmed the audience and belted out the country music.

The performance moved quickly indicating the start of Cash’s career and progressed through his maturing and more mature music through his decline in health at the end of his life.

“Ring of Fire” is the perfect vehicle for those who like the Grand Ole Opry or the more popular country music of performers like Kris Kristofferson and, of course, Cash.

For ticket information, call 330-374-7568.

 

David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor of communications at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association.

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