Johnny Cash musical ‘Ring of Fire’

(From left) Chris Cash, Susan Davidson Silvey, Traci Mayo Howard and Billy Jenkins in the Johnny Cash musical ‘Ring of Fire’ at Theatre of Gadsden.

Madness, gladness, sentiment and surprise. The audience becomes a part of it all in area theater this month, with shows in every stage of production.

Auditions are scheduled today for CAST’s April production of “The Wiz,” while the theater’s March comedy “Arsenic and Old Lace” has just been cast.

Finally, the curtain opens this weekend for Theatre of Gadsden’s show “Ring of Fire,” a Johnny Cash musical that is returning by popular demand. Theater, as you can see, is an ongoing presence in northeast Alabama.

CAST auditions for ‘The Wiz’

Auditions for an upcoming production of “The Wiz” will finish up today at 2 p.m. at CAST headquarters, 131 W. 11th St. in Anniston. The musical, directed by Brian Rothwell, will be performed April 12-15 at Oxford Performing Arts Center.       

“The Wiz” is an urban re-imagining of L. Frank Baum's classic children’s novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” Baum went on to write 13 more novels based on the places and people in the utopia of Oz.

“We’d like to have lots of community involvement in this show,” said Lynn Rice, CAST board member. “Everyone who tries out will appear in this musical.”

There will also be a pit chorus with singers delivering songs from the orchestra pit. Dance studio students are also involved in “The Wiz.”

No prepared monologue is necessary to audition. Bring one verse and chorus of a song of your choice, and an accompaniment source if possible. Or, the director will let you belt out a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday.” Be prepared to do some movement.

Most of the roles require singing, but there are at least five small speaking-only parts. Sixteen roles, including Toto, the dog, are listed, apart from the chorus.

The CAST production of “Arsenic and Old Lace” is scheduled for March 8-11 at McClellan Theatre. Directed by Dylan Hurst, it is set in Brooklyn, N.Y., in the Victorian home of two spinsters. More in next week’s column about this classic comedy.

Johnny Cash musical returns to Gadsden

“Ring of Fire” returns to Theatre of Gadsden by popular request for one weekend only. There will be four performances Friday through next Sunday, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

The Johnny Cash musical was presented during the 2017 season and met with sold-out houses for each performance. Subscribers with Theatre of Gadsden requested a second run, with good reason, said Ann Sharpe, house manager.

“We sold tickets to people who we’d never seen before,” said Mike Beecham, the musical’s director. “They were from many different backgrounds.” Opening night nearly sold out based on online pre-sales, according to Haley Rodgers, TOG board secretary.

In case you missed it the first time around, you can see the same show with the same cast at the historic Ritz Theatre in downtown Alabama City. The theater is located on Wall Street off of U.S. 431, about 35 miles from Anniston.

“Ring of Fire” tells the story of Johnny Cash’s life through his own words – his music. No single cast member is Johnny Cash. Every member of the cast represents Cash at various times and in various roles, sharing his personal history. There are 38 songs in the show; they are arranged to provide a sort of timeline of Cash’s life, while the performers on stage re-enact scenes related to the music.

According to Rodgers, all of the show’s instrumentation is performed live by the cast members while they’re onstage.   

Kimberly Patton of Weaver is in the ensemble, and finds it a totally new experience. She plays a band member in Cash’s band and, representing Cash, she acts out his story by song. “We are sure to keep the historical aspect of his story, making it true to who he was,” she said.

Tickets are $17 for general admission and $15 for students, seniors and military, with a $3 discount per ticket for groups of 10 or more. All tickets are reserved seating.

Each person who buys a season ticket at $85 will also get a free ticket to “Ring of Fire.” To redeem this deal, you must call 256-547-7469.

Patrons are encouraged to secure their seats early by purchasing tickets online at www.theatreofgadsden.org or by calling 256-547-SHOW (7469). Tickets will be available at the box office one hour prior to show time.

OPAC exhibit begins Monday

“Images of the South,” featuring the artwork of Talladega artist Art Bacon, will be on view beginning Monday night in the Martin-Lett Gallery in Oxford Performing Arts Center. It will be up through February.

Hervey Folsom writes about the local arts scene every Sunday. Contact her at herveyfolsom@yahoo.com.

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