Ring of Fire at The Claude Gentry

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I hear a train a’coming. 

A group of super-talented musicians and singers are currently searching their closets for something in black.  On May 9th, they will all take the stage of The Claude Gentry Theatre for “Ring of Fire – The Music of Johnny Cash.”  

The “man in black” didn’t wear floral prints and polo shirts, and neither will the cast of this show as they present the life and music of the legendary country music star to Baldwyn audiences this spring.  “Ring of Fire” has three performances scheduled as this year’s season-ender at The Claude Gentry, all starting at 7 pm, Thursday through Saturday nights, May 9th – May 11th.

No one actually “portrays” Johnny Cash in this musical revue, conceived and created by Richard Maltby and William Meade, but four male cast members do stand in his spot, singing everything from “Big River” to “I’ve Been Everywhere.”  Chance Moore and Robert Farrow, from Okolona and Ripley, respectively, will join Baldwyn natives Clark Richey and Greg Barber in making up a quartet of primary male vocalists for the show.   

And for every “Johnny,” there’s a “June.”  In similar fashion to the men, the female cast members of Ring of Fire don’t portray Johnny’s wife, June Carter Cash, but they will fill her musical role (and Cash’s too on occasion) on various songs throughout the show.  Baldwyn’s Patti Roberts and Darlene Griffin will combine with Kayla Myers of Ripley and Amye Gousset of Tupelo to hit the high notes in the upcoming production.

Rounding out the cast is local Baldwyn actor Anthony “Frog” Buse, who’s signed on in a non-singing role.  Buse will “host” the Grand Ol’ Opry segment of the show.

Musical director and pianist Amy Davis (Tupelo) will head up an all-star band assembled specifically for this musical.  Multi-talented musician Anthony Hopper of Kossuth will play guitar (in all shapes and sizes) and mandolin in the show, and Tupelo’s Barney Davis will join him on upright bass.  Rodney Reeves, a New Albany native, will perform as keyboardist and add backup vocals, and Skip Oliver, another Tupelo commuter, will deliver on harmonica.  Booneville drummer extraordinaire Paul Langley, a guy who’s played all over Baldwyn Main Street for years, completes the six-piece band created for this production.  Davis, Davis and Langley are reuniting, in a way, for this one, having performed the musical “Forever Plaid” on The Claude Gentry stage just a couple years ago, while Hopper, Reeves and Oliver have all been a part of the “2nd Saturday Live” radio show themselves during the past year.  This band is no stranger to playing live music at The Claude Gentry.  Expect greatness.

The final Claude Gentry Theatre production of the 2018-2019 season will be managed as a team effort.  Amye Gousset will direct, Amy Davis is musical director, and Amy Bain is production manager.  Clark Richey (a member of the production staff not named Amy) will function as a producer, set designer and AD.  Shelaine Pennington and Aaron Holmes will manage the stage and assist with the technical aspects of the show – lighting and sound.  It’s a great team, with loads of theater experience, more than sufficient to make this particular presentation of “Ring of Fire – The Music of Johnny Cash” something special.

Tickets are already on sale for the show, and at the time of this writing, about 30% of the seats are already taken, still six weeks out from opening night.  Admission is $15 per person, and tickets can be purchased online.  Attendees are able to select their own seating at Eventbrite.com, a secure online ticketing service used for all Claude Gentry Theatre events for several years now.  Given the perpetual appeal of Johnny Cash and his music to local audiences, the theatre expects all performances of “Ring of Fire” to sell out prior to show dates.  

John R. Cash – country music legend, outsider-turned-icon, the man in black – was a real person complete with failures and successes, good times and bad, and his music, both gritty and soulful, reflects the full spectrum of his life.  Still today, Cash’s music remains relevant and relatable.  If you are a Johnny Cash fan, come see “Ring of Fire.”  If you aren’t a Johnny Cash fan, come see “Ring of Fire,” and you will be.

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