Thingamajig Theatre Company closes out season

Photo courtesy Bill Hudson
The Thingamajig Theatre production of “Ring of Fire” celebrates the many sides of American recording artist Johnny Cash — including his family’s religious heritage — at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts. The final performances of the summer production take place this weekend. The five-member cast of singers and musicians are, from left, Allie Tamburello, Rayshaughn Armant, Tommy Paduano, Steven Sitzman and Nick Abbott.

By Bill Hudson
Special to The PREVIEW
Thingamajig Theatre Company closes out its extended 2019 Broadway in the Mountains summer season this weekend with four final performances of “Ring of Fire” — a musical celebration of singer-songwriter Johnny Cash, and a career that stretched from Cash’s first hit record in 1955 to his final studio album in 2002.
The final performances of “Ring of Fire” will take place tonight, Thursday, Sept. 12, through Saturday, Sept. 14, at 7 p.m. at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts, closing with a family-friendly 2 p.m. Sunday matinee on Sept. 15. Tickets are available online at pagosacenter.org or by calling 731-SHOW (7469).
The show features five actors/singers from the summer season repertory company — Rayshaughn Armant, Allie Tamburello, Nick Abbott, Tommy Paduano and Steven Sitzman — who are all instrumentalists and who perform live selections from Cash’s long recording career. The show is directed by noted Colorado theater artist Christopher Willard.
As they prepared for their final weekend, the five musicians offered some thoughts about performing Cash’s music on the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts stage this summer, beginning with rehearsals last April.
Tamburello is the sole female in the cast, so she sings on behalf of numerous women in Cash’s life.
“I think my favorite song of the show is the final song: ‘Hey, Porter.’”
“Hey, Porter” appeared as the B side of the very first Johnny Cash record in 1955, opposite his radio hit, “Cry, Cry, Cry.”
Tamburello said, “It’s really special to me, because every time we do the show, it’s a journey that we take from start to finish, and it’s like a roller coaster. It’s a roller coaster to perform, and it’s also like this wild ride that we’ve been on since we got here in April. And that song is like the bow on the present, every single night.”
Abbott sings many of the leads during the show, and serves as the shows narrator, although — in the general spirit of the production — he makes no attempt to “imitate” Cash.
“‘Why Me, Lord’ is the song that comes right before ‘Hey, Porter’ and I think that’s the song that’s the most fulfilling for me to sink my teeth into, because [Cash’s wife, June Carter Cash] has just passed away and so it’s really emotional. Maybe the most emotional moment in the show for my character.
“There are other emotional moments in the show, of course, but for me ‘Why Me, Lord’ is the emotional climax. I don’t know; I’m religious and I just really connect with that moment, right before we go into ‘Hey, Porter.’”
Paduano is the show’s bass player, covering upright and electric bass.
“My favorite is ‘Daddy Sang Bass.’ It’s one of the parts in the show — that whole section at the beginning of the show, where we represent Cash’s family — it just feels very much like a real family, when we all sing together during the beginning. And ‘Daddy Sang Bass’ is the climax of that. It’s the song in the show that I first grew to really love … It’s such a switch from the tragedy we just came out of, where we’re celebrating as a family …”
Lead guitarist Sitzman agreed.
“My favorite moment is also with ‘Daddy Sang Bass.’ It’s the first moment in the show when we’re all, like, jubilating together (laughs) … if that’s the word I want to use … We’re holding each other up, and … I don’t know what it is; there’s a special feeling about it. It’s like, here we are, we’re a family. Let’s play!”
Guitarist Armant is the youngest member of the cast.
“One of the telling things for me, as an actor — to know that we were entering on something very special, and I mean that affectionately — is that we would record tracks of ourselves to rehearse with, and things like that. And the director allowed us to take more control of the rehearsal process. Those kinds of things were really necessary, because we needed to do things our own way. Bring our own personalities into the process …”
Thingamajig’s “Ring of Fire” soars through Johnny Cash’s 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 12, 2019.