The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reviewer found fault with this show—on the grounds that it didn’t tell much about Cash’s life, it seemed—so we were a bit wary of it. But the title of the show emphasizes that it is about Cash’s music, not his life, and the promise of the title was fulfilled in a big way by the orchestrations of Steven Bishop and Jeff Lisenby, the direction of Richard Maltby, and the performances of the five talented people who actually did the singing and playing. Long and lean Eddie Clendening used his deep bass and virtuoso electric guitar to deliver a spot-on performance that was endlessly entertaining. At times, he seemed to be playing the role of a young Johnny Cash. Jason Edwards’s rugged face, southern accent, and deep bass served him well as an older version of Cash. Trenna Barnes was incredible as June Carter Cash, and her rendition of “I’ve Been Everywhere” knocks your socks off, especially her staccato delivery of all those places she claims to have been. Barnes’s full-throated voice has a range and power that must be heard to be appreciated. And Mark Winchester on the bass and the wooden chair (yes, he played a wooden chair with drumsticks in one of the numbers) and David Miles Keenan on a variety of instruments—the banjo, the guitar, the mandolin and once even on Winchester’s bass—displayed a vitality and versatility richly deserving of praise.
In a little over an hour and a half (with one 15 minute intermission), the audience was treated to more than 30 Cash tunes, including the mournful “Let the Train Whistle Blow,” the adolescent “Straight A’s in Love,” the lively “Daddy Sang Bass,” the countrified “Egg-Sucking Dog,” the humorous “Flushed from the Bathroom of your Hearts,” the lonely “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” and the famous “Ring of Fire.”
At the end, the crowd of Cash fans demanded more, and they got what they wanted—an encore performance of “A Boy Named Sue,” sung by Jason Edwards. His performance was as good-natured, sly and carefree as Cash’s original and was an entirely appropriate ending to the show.
Don’t miss “Ring of Fire,” despite what the Journal-Sentinel reviewer says. You’ll leave happy and with many of Cash’s songs swirling through your head for days afterward.