LIMELIGHT THEATRE REVIEW
St. Augustine’s Limelight Theatre opened its 24th season on September 18, 2015 with Richard Maltby Jr.’s “Ring of Fire,” a musical revue of Johnny Cash hits, which will run through October 18. The show will be on the Matuza Main Stage, at 11 Old Mission Avenue in downtown St. Augustine. For reservations and additional information, call 904-825-1164 or visit limelight-theatre.org.
This musical revue features 32 songs associated with the late Johnny Cash, who died at age 71 in 2003. He was a multi-faceted entertainer, who was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, as well as the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. And while many of the songs in this show have a country flavor, you will also experience gospel, blues, and rock and roll numbers.
The revue differs from other musical tributes in that it is largely a musical revue, with a few details of his life interwoven as the show progresses. While a bit of his early childhood and his two marriages are touched upon, “Ring of Fire” is about music and more music. None of the cast members try to impersonate Cash, although Britt Corry as the lead singer Jason certainly has a deep bass-baritone singing voice and certainly sounds very much like Cash.
Director Beth Lambert has put together a talented group of musicians, who can both sing and play a variety of musical instruments. Besides the expected guitars, you will hear a mandolin, autoharp, bass, piano, washboard, and drum sticks and spoons.Dakotah Roche, an adorable black lab dog who has appeared elsewhere in “The Miracle Worker” and “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” is making her Limelight debut. She sits on stage wearing a colorful bandana, while alertly observing the action; the role does not require singing or barking. Susan Roche plays a variety of instruments and is the proud owner and trainer of Dakotah. Susan last appeared on Limelight’s stage nine years ago in “Spitfire Grill.” Amy Farmer, with her remarkable voice, has been a favorite of Jacksonville and St. Augustine audiences since 2002. Limelight regulars will remember her as Mona Stangley in “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” and she also appeared as Mother in “Barefoot in the Park.” This is a return from a leave of absence of sorts, as this talented performer is returning to the stage after having taken time off to start a family.
The final member of this wonderful cast is Music Director Shelli Long, who plays a mean keyboard and sang along during many of the numbers.
The set is a nightclub stage with a video screen that is used throughout the show to display vintage and more modern photos and brief videos related to Cash and his family and performances, interspersed at times with thematic references to lyrics.
Costumer Lorraine Rokovitz has the cast dressed in back for most of the first act (Cash’s favorite color), except for Amy Farmer who wore an unassuming vintage-styled house dress at the beginning, which was replaced with more colorful and stylish gowns as the show progressed. When the band was performing at the Grand Ole Opry, the musicians wore black slacks and red shirts.
We don’t know what your favorite Johnny Cash song might be, but the audience responded with enthusiastic applause to songs such as “Ring of Fire,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “I Walk the Line,” and “A Boy Named Sue.” We especially enjoyed the two novelty numbers in the middle of the show. One “Flushed from the Bathroom of Your Heart” received a lot of laughs, while “Egg Suckin’ Dog” was both funny and very short.
Act Two included a tribute to the American Flag, which was very moving and a wonderful patriotic gesture that left us with a tear in our eyes and a lump in our throats.
If you are a Johnny Cash fan, or if you just want to enjoy great musical entertainment, you will enjoy this revue, filled with wonderful songs performed to perfection by a very talented cast.