I fell in love with the production of “Ring of Fire” when it was brought to us at Theatre at The Center in Munster. Now, they have taken this production, made a few changes here and there, sort of like a chef adjusting a good recipe, just a bit, to make it all the more tastier and last night the audience at The Mercury Theater saw just how solid this show can be. The recipe has reached perfection! Again, there are some musical changes and the addition to the cast of Chicago’s rising star Austin Cook, who it seems can play more than just the piano.
Directed by Brian Russell on a scaled down set by Angela Miller, the intimacy of the smaller stage and theater seems to make this production even stronger than the original. The Munster venue is great for large scale musicals, but when they this show, we felt that we were far from the action, and often could not see the faces of the actors/performers. In this venue, we are “the fly on the wall” as we hear the story of “The Man In Black” as told through some 35 of his songs.
Created by Richard Maltby Jr., with orchestrations by Steven Bishop and Jeff Lisenby, with musical direction by Malcolm Ruhl, who is also one of the musicians on the stage, this is a top notch evening of entertainment that even non-country music lovers can relish with fervor. This show was not a huge success in New York, but as done in Munster, it was, and now, at the intimate Mercury Theater, I have a feeling it will run all summer.
Leading us on this adventure is Kent M. Lewis as Johnny. His voice is perfect, his demeanor wonderful and his smile, which we now can truly see, magical. There is also a “young Johnny”, Michael Monroe Goodman is ideal and while his speaking voice is not what one might expect, his singing voice works. The first time I saw this show, I questioned why two Johnny’s, but just relax and let it happen- you will not be sorry!
June carter Cash is played to perfection by the now slimmed down Cory Goodrich ( in case you hadn’t noticed her TV ads with other celebs who have lost big weight), a Chicago favorite. As talented as ever in the new slim version. The others in this cast are Greg Hirte, Chicago’s man with the fiddle (almost every play that has a fiddle or fiddler has Greg Hirte) who shows some other talents in this one as well. Billy Shaffer handles the drums and Malcolm Ruhl who also handles many a string to bring the music of Johnny Cash alive.
“Country Boy”, “Five Feet High”, “Daddy Sang Bass”, ” Cry! Cry! Cry!”, “If I Were a Carpenter”, “Ring of Fire”, “I’ve Been Everywhere”, “Man In Black”, “Folsom Prison Blues”, “Going to Memphis”, “I Walk The Line”, “A Boy Named Sue” and many, many others- all of this and a story as well. One about love, faith, overcoming obstacles and struggles as well as finding happiness through family and through music.
Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays at 3 and 7:30 p.m.
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 3 and 8 p.m.
Sundays 3 and 7 p.m.
Running time is two glorious hours (two acts) Although I anticipate them extending the run due to the demand for tickets, I suggest you not wait, just in case. You may also want to go back a second (or third) time!
Tickets range from $25- $65 and are available at the box office located in the theater at 3745 N. Southport Avenue (in beautiful Wrigleyville) , by calling 773-325-1700 or online at www.MercuryTheaterChicago.com
Parking is a bit of a problem in the area, but there is valet parking at the door, some metered spots and a metered lot just down the street. However, should there be a Cubs game, I suggest going right to valet or better yet, take public transportation.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Ring Of Fire” the Music of Johnny Cash!