Thingamajig’s ‘Ring of Fire’ continues until Sept. 15

Photo courtesy Jeff Laydon

By Bill Hudson
Special to The PREVIEW
Thingamajig Theatre Company’s 2019 Broadway in the Mountains summer season hosted the final performances for three of its main stage musical productions this past weekend at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts, but Artistic Director Tim Moore made the decision this year to run one of the outstanding summer season productions into Pagosa’s “shoulder season.”
Thingamajig’s “Ring of Fire” will continue playing through Sunday, Sept. 15, with performances offered Thursday through Sunday each week.
“Ring of Fire” celebrates the music of one of America’s most popular singer songwriters, Johnny Cash. The show does not, however, attempt to portray The Man in Black directly. Instead, the contours of Cash’s life and art can be seen through narratives woven by his music. The story — told through Cash’s songs — develops an earnest dialogue about home and family, the people you love, and what holds people together in the face of tough times.
Cash was born Feb. 26, 1932, in Kingsland, Ark., grew up with music as an integral part of his household, and began to write songs and play guitar at age 12. After his graduation from high school in 1950, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, serving with the Air Force Security Service in Landsberg, Germany, where he organized his first band, the Landsberg Barbarians. Following his discharge from the Air Force in 1954, he auditioned for Sam Phillips’ Sun Records and with a couple of mechanics, Marshall Grant and Luther Perkins, formed a trio known as Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two. The three friends recorded hit songs such as “Cry, Cry, Cry” and “Folsom Prison Blues.”
Throughout the late the 1950s and into the 1960s, Cash continued to produce hit records. His songs “Don’t Take Your Guns to Town,” “I Got Stripes,” “Understand Your Man” and “The Ballad of Ira Hayes” all hit near the top of the record charts. In 1963, Cash recorded one of the biggest hits of his long career, “Ring of Fire” — a song written by June Carter and Merle Kilgore and recorded by the Carter family in 1962 and by Cash in 1963.
Despite Cash’s success on the charts, he struggled throughout his career with drug and alcohol abuse. Following his divorce from Vivian Liberto in 1967, he moved to Nashville in 1967 and worked with Carter, who helped Cash overcome his drug addiction. The two went on to marry in 1968 and produced top-charting duets, including “Jackson,” “Long-Legged Guitar Pickin’ Man” and “It Ain’t Me, Babe.”
Although he suffered from complications from diabetes, Cash continued to write and record, earning a Grammy for best contemporary folk album, “American Recordings” in 1994, another Grammy for best country album, “Unchained,” in 1997, and a Grammy for the best male country vocal performance for his cover of Neil Diamond’s “Solitary Man” in 2000.
Johnny Cash lost his wife June Carter Cash to heart failure in May 2003. He passed away a few months later, on Sept. 12, 2003.
The group of five singers, actors, and musicians that make up Thingamjig’s “Ring of Fire” cast are multitalented artists from around the country. Thingamajig audiences might spot a favorite from the years past: Steven Sitzman, who appeared in such Thingamajig productions as “Sister Act,” “Big River” and “West Side Story.” The other four performers are new this year to the Thingamajig stage: Rayshaughn Armant, Allie Tamburello, Nick Abbott and Tommy Paduano.
This talented group of artists will be singing and playing a variety of instruments to bring Johnny Cash’s musical legacy to life right before your eyes. “Ring of Fire” soars through his iconic music and will leave you humming “I’ve Been Everywhere” and “I Walk the Line” for days to come. You’ll laugh along with “A Boy Named Sue” and struggle to not sing along with “Folsom Prison Blues.”
To get tickets to “Ring of Fire,” visit pagosacenter.org or call 731-SHOW (7469).
Thingamajig Theatre Company is an award-winning professional nonprofit 501(c)(3) theater in residence within the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts. Its talented actors, directors and designers come from across the U.S. and around the world to produce musicals, comedies and dramas year-round.

This story was posted on September 5, 2019.