GLT’s ‘Ring of Fire’ burns bright

A packed house at the W.M. Whittington Jr. Playhouse burned with delight throughout the Thursday-evening debut of Greenwood Little Theatre’s production of “Ring of Fire.”

The jukebox musical beamed with the spirit of singer Johnny Cash and featured an all-star cast of musical talent.

Directed by Ted MacIntosh, who is assisted by Cathy Roberts, the event featured 28 storytelling songs that follow a narrative of Cash’s life — childhood, stardom, meeting June Carter, struggles with addiction and redemption.

The production’s music director is Alan Jones, and it features a live band composed of Jones, lead guitar; Justin Tate, bass; Taylor Buchanan, rhythm guitar; and Matthew Moore, drums.

The event had a concert feel. Other than a recording by the director giving an introduction and setting the tone for the event, those attending will hear no other scripted dialogue. The cast and band members do, however, talk and interact with audience.

No one person plays Cash; they all are playing him, with each giving the legendary musician’s signature “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash” before a song.

Rhonda Drummond, Margie Norwood, Gwendolyn Riley and Jessica Fulgham get the first act started with “Wildwood Flower.”

The director and his wife, Freda MacIntosh, then sing “Flesh and Blood.” The husband-and-wife duo gives a sweet performance reminiscent of a Cash and June Carter duet.

The first act continues with many songs that inspired a young Cash, including “Five Feet High and Rising,” performed by Marvin Haley, and “Straight A’s in Love,” a soulful performance by Marlon Collins.

Brooke Kirby and Tate also give the audience a reminder of the magic that was a Cash and Carter duet with “Time’s ‘Awaistin.”

Younger cast member Raghav Nallani and Jessica Fulgham perform “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” with Nallani taking the lead, and “All Over Again,” with Fulgham singing lead. The two also harmonize the choruses of both songs well.

“Daddy Sang Bass” entertained the crowed next, with vocals by MacIntosh, Drummond, Haley and Buchanan, with assistance from the production’s ensemble.

Amelia Kundel and Buchanan sing the famous Cash-Carter duet “I Walk the Line,” while Will Perkins sings the production’s namesake “Ring of Fire” with a Cash-esque performance.

The first act is capped with the crowd-pleasing, entertaining performance of “Jackson” by the vocal and acting talents of Perkins and Jessica Roberts.

The famous Cash persona comes alive in second act with “Cocaine Blues,” “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Man in Black.”

On somber notes during Act II, the crowd was wowed by “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” performed by Jones, and “Hurt,” performed by Buchanan with Nichole Henry.

The tone is then picked up with another entertaining performance by the combination of Perkins and Roberts with “Long Legged Guitar Pickin’ Man,” followed by another soulful Cash interpretation by Collins with “Folsom Prison Blues.”

On a more light-hearted note, Tate entertains with a crowd favorite, “A Boy Named Sue,” and Buchanan impresses theater-goers with Cash’s “I’ve Been Everywhere,” which he pulls off flawlessly.

The production is completed by “I’ll Fly Away,” featuring Ted and Freda MacIntosh, Haley, the ensemble and even the audience.

Some of the actors matched Cash’s deep, bass-baritone voice, and others gave their own renditions, with the event featuring an array of talents and singing styles. The variety of voices kept each song fresh. Even the most well-known songs felt new but still familiar.

One of the best parts of this production is how happy and comfortable all of the cast and band members seemed to be on stage. They are having fun, and that happy atmosphere spreads to the audience, compelling some to even sing along.

Overall, “Ring of Fire” is a clapping and toe-tapping good time.

The production is not only for Johnny Cash fans but also for anyone who is a fan of good live music.

To purchase tickets or season memberships or make seat reservations, visit www.greenwoodlittletheatre.com or call 947-1075. Tickets may be purchased at the door for $15 for adults and $10 for those under 21.

Alicia Dallas