“Ring of Fire” at the Temple Theatre Is a Musical Tribute to “The Man in Black,” Johnny Cash

Shown here (from left) are Brian Malone on drums, Michael Hudson Heath on guitar, Justin Drogemueller on bass, Andrew Crowe on keyboards, Jennie Malone on accordion, and Jessica Bradish on guitar
Shown here (from left) are Brian Malone on drums, Michael Hudson Heath on guitar, Justin Drogemueller on bass, Andrew Crowe on keyboards, Jennie Malone on accordion, and Jessica Bradish on guitar

Last Friday night, a sextet of multifaceted performers in Ring of Fire showered the audience at Temple Theatre in Sanford with reminiscences of famous country singer Johnny Cash; and the audience couldn’t have been more receptive. Cash, who quickly rose to national popularity that overflowed the country/western audience of the 1960s right up to his death in 2003, sang all the plots of the genre and gave two incredible performances at Folsom Prison in California from whence was derived one of his best known albums, “Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison” (1968).

Ring of Fire, as this jukebox musical revue is called, is named for Johnny Cash’s first national hit in 1956. The two-act show has virtually no dialogue. It strings together many of the songs most us know: spirituals, humorous, heartbroken, down-and-out, love songs and the famous finale, “Boy Named Sue,” and includes a visit from the hilarious Minnie Pearl, singing “Flushed.”

Michael Hudson Heath, tall, dark haired, and possessing a warm deep bass voice, hearkened of Cash with his rockin’, walkin’, postures, guttural raspings, and the familiar gesticulations of his guitar. Andrew Crowe, known in the area already for his work in Smoke On the Mountain and the musical director for this show ,a also amazes us with his high falutin’ fiddlin’, and acquires the gaunt look and slick-backed hair of the Man in Black for “A Boy Named Sue.”

Jessica Bradish brings a torchy voice and demeanor to her Johnny Cash/June Carter Cash interpretations, and kicks up her heels pretty darn well to boot. Justin Droegemueller’s fine bass fiddle thumping and Johnny Cash smile and delivery blends in well with the ensemble, and this bunch is great with such finger popping tunes as “Will the Circle [Be Unbroken]”/”Daddy Sang Bass” and “Egg Suckin’ Dog.”

Jennie Malone, an alumna of the theater’s December 2014 production of The Sanders Family Christmas, is prodigiously versatile with many instruments, including accordion, banjo and guitar, with a sunshiny smile. She also sparkles as a June Carter Cash. Drummer Brian Malone engages in the only dialogue in the show as Cash’s first record producer, and creates an unusual rhythm instrument from a drumstick and a bit of chain.

Director/costumer Peggy Taphorn infuses the show with energy, skipping from song to song without ceremony. The first act dress was tassely country western styles in black and red, but shifted to the all-black trademark of Johnny Cash for the second act.

Set and lighting designer Steven Harrington produced a dynamic backdrop of color and light on a mostly empty stage, giving the feeling of a country night spot of the fifties. Multimedia designers Chris Blissett and Chris deLambert told the story of Cash’s career with ongoing videos and stills.

The program is preceded by serenadings of show music from the Temple Teens ensemble, always a delight to watch and hear. The entire evening is a warm entertainment for these cold winter nights.

SECOND OPINION: Feb. 28th Sanford, NC Sanford Herald review by Vicki Hogan: http://www.sanfordherald.com/features/x923741204/Review-Hard-trek-to-Temple-was-worth-it-for-Ring-of-Fire and Feb. 28th preview by Kathryn Trogdon: http://www.sanfordherald.com/news/leecounty/x259149340/Dressed-in-black.

The Temple Theatre presents RING OF FIRE at 2 and 7 p.m. March 5, 2 and 8 p.m. March 6, 8 p.m. March 7, 2 p.m. March 8, 2 and 7 p.m. March 12, 8 p.m. March 13 and 14, and 2 p.m. March at 120 Carthage St., Sanford, North Carolina 27330.

TICKETS: $25, except $21 Thursday night, $14 students with ID, $21 Lee County teacher/educator and active-duty military personnel, and $21 per person for groups of 10 or more.

BOX OFFICE: 919-774-4155, boxoffice@templeshows.com, or https://www.vendini.com/.

GROUP RATES (10+ tickets and 20+ tickets): 919-774-4155, boxoffice@templeshows.com, or http://www.templeshows.com/ticketinfo/grouppackagesandsales.php.

SHOW: http://www.templeshows.com/showsandevents/currentshow.php.

2014-15 SEASON: http://www.templeshows.com/showsandevents/fullseason14-15.php.

PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.templeshows.com/, https://www.facebook.com/TheTempleTheatre, and https://twitter.com/TempleTheatreNC.

DIRECTIONS/PARKING: http://www.templeshows.com/visit/index.php.


Ring of Fire (2006 Broadway jukebox musical): http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?id=406668 (Internet Broadway Database) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ring_of_Fire_%28musical%29 (Wikipedia).

Richard Maltby, Jr. (creator): http://www.mtishows.com/biography.asp?writerid=3452 (Music Theatre International bio) and http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=11088 (Internet Broadway Database). William Meade (concept): http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=12670 (Internet Broadway Database).

Peggy Taphorn (director and costumer): http://www.templeshows.com/about/templestaff.php (Temple Theatre bio) and https://www.facebook.com/peggy.taphorn.7 (Facebook Page).


Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.