The Alhambra Theatre kicked off its 2013 season on December 28th with the North Florida premier of the Richard Maltby Jr. musical Ring of Fire – The Music of Johnny Cash. The show opened on the 28th so the Alhambra could feature it for the annual New Year’s Eve event. The official gala opening is January 4th, and this is a rare opportunity to read a review and make gala reservations. (Galas are lots of fun, with free champagne and hors d’oeuvres offered by the roving wait staff before the show and some goodies after the show along with a chance to meet the cast in person in the lobby.)
The Alhambra’s previous tribute shows to country stars Patsy Cline, Hank Williams and rock and roller Buddy Holly have been very popular with North Florida audiences. While most of us consider the late Johnny Cash (he died in 2003 at age 71) a country music star, let us not forget he has been inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of fame and the Gospel Music Hall of Fame as well as the Country Music Hall of Fame. And while most of the thirty some songs in this show certainly have a country flavor, you will experience some of his gospel, blues, and rock and roll songs as well.
The Johnny Cash Musical differs from other tributes in that it is largely a musical revue and only a few details of his life are presented as the show progresses. A bit of his early childhood is covered and his two marriages are mentioned, but Ring of Fire is about music and more music and so many of the songs that we have come to know through the years. The eight performers in this show all come out and introduce themselves in the traditional way Cash always came out, saying “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash!” None of the eight tries to impersonate the great Cash, although if you will close your eyes when JASON NETTLE is singing a solo, he sounds very much like Cash.
Director/Producer/Choreographer Tod Booth has put together one of the most talented casts to ever be on this stage. All eight have excellent voices; all the men can play guitars. Ring of Fire veteran CHRIS BLISSET not only strums a mean guitar but does some interesting things with a harmonica as well. ASHLIE BROOKE ROBERSON adds some fancy fiddle playing in some songs.
MORGAN CARSON, SAM SHERWOOD and AMANDA RYAN PAIGE are making their very impressive debuts at the Alhambra. KATIE HENSLEY who was in the last show White Christmas and was the Jitterbug in last summer’s Wizard of Oz gets to spread her country wings in this one and really shows off her vocal talents.