The opening riff of mariachi-style trumpets echoed from the stage of the Old Town Hall Theater down into the rafters of the dressing room where actresses began to roll their hair into curlers, impersonating a 1960s look. Humming along to one of the most famous ballads recorded by Johnny Cash, little did his wife June Carter-Cash know that the poetic lyrics she penned with Merle Kilgore would become more than a signature song for her husband, but a headline Broadway production.
A cast of six actors and actresses are hoping for a little toe tapping as they prepare to tell the story of Johnny Cash in a new musical titled, “Ring of Fire,” which premieres at 7:30 p.m. MDT on Wednesday at the Old Town Hall Theater in Medora. The show will continue until Oct. 10, with live performances at 7:30 p.m. MDT on Wednesdays through Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. MDT on Sundays.
Though it is a little different than a typical theatrical performance where each actor is assigned a particular character, the cast of “Ring of Fire” will all get a chance to slip on the shoes of Johnny Cash.
“It’s really fun because you’re not doing the same thing ever throughout the show. One time, you’re playing the banjo and then you’re playing a ukulele and you’re playing mandolin and you’re playing the drums and you’re playing electric guitar, acoustic guitar,” actor Tim Drake said. “Then I’m playing the announcer for the Grand Ole Opry and I’m playing Johnny. (Then) I’m playing Sam Phillips… It’s fun to be able to do a bunch of different characters and stretch yourself — do some different voices and that kind of stuff to make them come alive.”
Actor Dorian Chalmers added, “It sort of shows too, that Johnny’s music is universal to anybody.”
Both Chalmers and Drake have performed “Ring of Fire” in different cities, bringing a knowledge and understanding of how to tell the story of Johnny Cash. Each member on the current casting list has also been a part of this production at another venue at one point.
“... The audiences here I'm sure are all very familiar with Johnny Cash and because they do some of the Johnny Cash songs in the Gospel Bunch and they've done some over the years in the show too,” actor Tim Drake said. “But this is going to be a very good Johnny Cash audience out here. We can't wait.”
Though most music lovers know Johnny Cash’s music, not all understand the trials he went through from working in the cotton fields in Arkansas growing up to enlisting in the U.S. Air Force.
“In lieu of an impersonator, we have the whole idea of the shows. We tell his whole life story through his music. Johnny Cash’s music catalog is huge,” Drake said, adding, “... Every song catalogs a different portrait from when he grew up and his brother’s death and his marriage to June... and his issues with pills at one point. So it goes right from the beginning to the end."
Tickets can be purchased at medora.com, or at any location in Medora that tickets are sold.