Tag Archives: Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park

Stage Notes for Jan. 23

Broadway star Leslie Uggams provided coaching and advice to Wright State students and sang several songs as a visiting artist of the Musical Theatre Initiative.

Broadway star Leslie Uggams provided coaching and advice to Wright State students and sang several songs as a visiting artist of the Musical Theatre Initiative.

A potpourri of arts news items from local and national sources.

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RING OF FIRE: THE MUSIC OF JOHNNY CASH Review

Links to all reviews can be found using the REVIEWS link at the top of the page. Blog postings, links and more are available on my Facebook fan page. You can also receive updates on Twitter from @BTCincyRob.

Director/principal performer Jason Edwards. Photo by Sandy Underwood.

Director/principal performer Jason Edwards. Photo by Sandy Underwood.

RING OF FIRE: THE MUSIC OF JOHNNY CASH presented by Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park through Feb. 15. Click here for more information on the production. I attended the opening night performance.

Whenever I hear the name Johnny Cash, I almost immediately think of my Dad. He was a big fan of “The Man in Black” and I remember the multiple albums in his record collection. I also have vague recollections of Cash’s TV appearances which Dad was always sure to catch (which wasn’t hard considering there were only three TV channels back then).

Principal performers Derek Keeling (left to right), Trenna Barnes, Allison Briner, Jason Edwards and musician Brent Moyer. Photo by Sandy Underwood.

Principal performers Derek Keeling (left to right), Trenna Barnes, Allison Briner, Jason Edwards and musician Brent Moyer. Photo by Sandy Underwood.

This was my first time seeing RING OF FIRE. Perhaps, with the success of Playhouse’s other recent jukebox musical, I had my expectations set too high for this production.

Part of the problem is the show itself. It’s not really a theatrical piece or a concert. There isn’t enough information in the nearly non-existent book to qualify it as a biography. The cast consists of two male/female couples, (one older/one younger) all simply referred to as a “Principal” in the program. The Principals switch personas from scene to scene with little, if any exposition. This format can cause confusion as to who is who at any given moment, which was a complaint I heard echoed by audience members at intermission.

Musician Brent Moyer and principal performers Jason Edwards, Allison Briner, Trenna Barnes and Derek Keeling perform at the Grand Ole Opry. Photo by Sandy Underwood.

Musician Brent Moyer and principal performers Jason Edwards, Allison Briner, Trenna Barnes and Derek Keeling perform at the Grand Ole Opry. Photo by Sandy Underwood.

Of the four Principals, Trenna Barnes is a vocal stand-out. Her voice is beautiful, strong and the embodiment of a country singer to me. The remaining three performers, while talented vocalists, are singing country music, not country music singers.

The cast. Photo by Sandy Underwood.

The cast. Photo by Sandy Underwood.

For the set, designer John Iacovelli smartly creates a replica of the Cash cabin upstage. The floor and main playing area is a large circular platform with two outer rings. As blocked, the bulk of the show is performed to only two-thirds of the audience. Patrons sitting audience left-ish are seldom acknowledged by the performers. Even more confusing is the directors’ (Principal performer Jason Edwards and assistant director/choreographer Denise Patton) decision to block multiple times on the outer ring, audience right (in front of the actor exit), so nearly half of the audience are watching performers’ backs. As a whole, I found the blocking and choreography to be flat, uninspired and lacking in energy. The lighting design by Kenton Yeager is a bit too dim at times, and relies a bit too heavily on spotlights.

The cast listens as Allison Briner (center) sings “Angel Band.” Photo by Sandy Underwood.

The cast listens as Allison Briner (center) sings “Angel Band.” Photo by Sandy Underwood.

The musicians for this production are incredibly talented. The music, under the direction of Jeff Lisenby, is top-notch. As with the original production, the musicians are used to fill additional roles as needed, with mixed results. When performing, several of the musicians look uncomfortable out from behind their instruments. For the Act II opener, “I’ve Been Everywhere,” nearly a dozen performers are lined across the stage, each singing a couple of city names in turn. A cute gimmick, but the differences in volume and diction derails the number.

Overall RING OF FIRE is a perfectly fine production but nothing that excited me. Serious fans of Johnny Cash will find this production more enjoyable, but I’m not sure it will win-over any new fans for the Man in Black.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5

I would enjoy hearing what you think about the show or my review. All I ask is that you express your opinion without attacking someone else’s opinion. You can post your comments below.

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Stage Notes for Jan. 21

Sherry McCamley & Cathy Springfield. Photo by Kirk Sheppard Photography.

Sherry McCamley & Cathy Springfield in SHE’S CRAZY (AND OTHER MENTAL HEALTH MYTHS). Photo by Kirk Sheppard Photography.

A potpourri of arts news items from local and national sources.

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Stage Notes for Jan. 19

Bruce Cromer as Estragon & Nicholas Rose as Vladimir. Photo by Mikki Schaffner Photography.

Bruce Cromer as Estragon & Nicholas Rose as Vladimir. Photo by Mikki Schaffner Photography.

A potpourri of arts news items from local and national sources.

  • Broadway.Com article: Sharr White on Vulnerability, Mortality & the Dark Inspiration Behind His New Drama THE OTHER PLACE [at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati]
  • Sappy Critic review: WAITING FOR GODOT [Cincinnati Shakespeare Company]
  • Broadway World article: Breaking News: Julianne Hough and Vanessa Hudgens To Star in GREASE: LIVE on FOX; Set for January 31, 2016
  • Cincinnati.Com review: WAITING FOR GODOT [Cincinnati Shakespeare Company]
  • WCPO article: Best supporting actor in a proposal: Cincinnati Zoo’s Santa, for helping Steffen ‘put a ring on it’
  • Cincinnati.Com article: Winter guide to Cincinnati music, theater, arts
  • Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park article: Celebrating the Man in Black [RING OF FIRE]
  • Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park article: The Man Behind the Image [RING OF FIRE]

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Video: Trailer for RING OF FIRE at Playhouse in the Park

Jason Edwards, Allison Briner, Trenna Barnes & Derek Keeling.

Jason Edwards, Allison Briner, Trenna Barnes & Derek Keeling.

The songs tell the story in this musical celebration of the Man in Black, a singer who left an unmatched legacy in folk, gospel, rock and country. RING OF FIRE: THE MUSIC OF JOHNNY CASH runs Jan. 17-Feb. 15, 2015.

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