Thingamajig Theatre’s ‘Ring of Fire’ to open summer season May 17

Photo courtesy Thingamajig Theatre Company

By Thingamajig Theatre staff
Special to The PREVIEW
Thingamajig Theatre Company’s 2019 “Broadway in the Mountains” summer season kicks off next week with the opening of “Ring of Fire” at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts.
Opening nights are Friday, May 17, and Saturday, May 18, at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts.
A special “Parents Play Date” is scheduled for the Sunday, May 19, afternoon performance, which includes free child care at the Pagosa Play Place.
“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 music — develops an earnest dialogue about home and family, the people you love and what holds people together in the face of tough times.
The group of five singers, actors and musicians that make up the “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 Cash’s musical legacy to life right before your eyes.
Cash was born Feb. 26, 1932, in Kingsland, Ark., the fourth of seven children. He 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. Cash also produced arguably his most popular song, “Ring of Fire,” at this time — co-written with June Carter.
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 June 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.”
In 1980, at the age of 48, Cash became one of the youngest inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted Cash in 1992 as one the few musicians recognized in both organizations.
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. In 2003, Cash earned three CMA awards, and his video for “Hurt” won an MTV award and a Grammy.
Cash lost his wife to heart failure in May 2003. He passed away a few months later, on Sept. 12, 2003.
Cash’s rugged simplicity and honesty in his work extended the scope of country music and broadened audiences throughout his career. “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.”
This music-lovers’ musical is directed by veteran artist Christopher Willard, who some Thingamajig fans may remember from “Fully Committed” — the very first production ever performed on the Pagosa Center stage.
Willard leads a talented crew of designers: Thingamajig costumer designer Nanette Cheffers (“A Christmas Carol” and “Legally Blonde, The Musical”); resident set designer and technical director for Thingamajig, Matthew D. McCarren, who has created yet another beautiful set design; and Laine Wong, long-time lighting designer, back for another season dramatically illuminating the stage.
“Ring of Fire” is opening at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts on Friday, May 17. Opening night tickets — for May 17 and 18 — include a drink, dessert and exclusive invitation to a post-show “talk back” with the cast and crew.
“Ring of Fire” is a part of Thingamajig Theatre’s “Broadway in the Mountains” summer season, which includes four other exciting musicals: “Mamma Mia!,” “The Who’s Tommy,” “Jekyll and Hyde, the Musical” and “Alice in Wonderland Jr.”
To get tickets to this rock ‘n’ roll summer season, 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 May 13, 2019.