I am going to admit right off the start that I am not a huge fan of Johnny Cash. Fact is I do not own a single recording of his. Not to say that I am unfamiliar with his music, after all he recorded a gazillion albums, had a TV show, probably appeared in a movie of two and toured all over the world. So I am probably not the best choice to write a review on the current offering of Actors’ Summit “Ring of Fire” now playing through May 25, 2014.
I will be perfectly honest with you. While at times there were moments of greatness that shone through, by and large it was an extremely uneven performance. It reminded me of jam sessions that I have witnessed and participated in where pickers and singers are thrown together for a short spell to hack out a few favorite ballads with nobody really concerned about the overall quality, just the “groove”.
In all, the four singers/musicians joined up with piano, percussion and trumpet (for one song) just don’t quite jell. It seemed that they were all listening to metronomes set at different speeds and on occasion lyrics were flubbed or missed altogether. This is not to say that the songs were not wildly received by an appreciative audience. There was head bobbing, clapping, singing along and whistling with each offering so who am I to criticize. In all there were over thirty songs from nearly as many composers covering the most famous to a few obscure works of the man in black.
Before the show it was pointed out that they were not in any way trying to imitate Johnny Cash, just to pay tribute to his legacy. On this note they did succeed with the audience showering them with love after each and every number.
Beefs and Flubs: It is sad to note that on this particular performance there was a bevy of wrecked lyrics and off playing that made listening more of a chore than one would think necessary. I am hoping that this performance was a fluke and not the norm.
Prude Alert: This is a clean and wholesome show as far as songs about cheating spouses, drinking, carousing and fighting will allow. If you’re into Johnny Cash and don’t mind a few gaffs you will enjoy it.
Shooting From the Lip (In My Opinion): What is lacking in a polished performance is made up by a hyper-enthusiastic audience who hung onto each note and rewarded the performers with loud clapping and cheering. While not my cup of tea, fans of the man in black will flock to this show and love it despite its flaws.
Jennifer Browing, Scott Davis, Dana Hart* and Brian Mueller as the singers with J. T. Buck on Keyboard, Scott Sexton on Percussion and Melanie Williams on Trumpet.
Created by Richard Maltby, Jr., conceived by William Meade, Directed by Neil Thackaberry*, Musical Direction by J.T. Buck, Stage Management by Brianna Laybourn, Costumes and Props by MaryJo Alexander*, Lighting and Sound Design by Kevin Rutan** and Board Operations by Parry Catalano.
Tickets for “Ring of Fire” are on sale now through the box office at (330) 374-7568 and online at www.actorssummit.org. Preview tickets (May 1) are $20. Tickets for all other performances: $33 for adults, $28 for seniors over 65; and $10 for all full time students under 30.
The theater is located on the sixth floor of historic Greystone Hall that is located at 103 S. High Street in downtown Akron. The facility features barrier free access, free parking, and full bar service.
More information is available at the Actors’ Summit website: www.actorssummit.org.