Fall into a Ring of Fire 

Tall, Gaunt Ambassador

We were weaving through Cairo in his taxi, darting around one choked knot of traffic after another, trying to hunt down my highly recommended but frustratingly elusive little hotel. Circumstances like these invite amiable chatter, but the cabbie and I had already exhausted the limited reserve of words we knew in each other's language. It was another impasse added to the mounting pile. He turned on the radio and, in silence, bent over the wheel, hunting.

Irritation finally seemed to get the better of him. He slapped the dashboard and swung around to me — "Folsom Prison!" On a blistering day in Cairo, Johnny Cash had made our day. That's some musical legacy.

With slightly more than two dozen featured songs, Village Playhouse's production of Ring of Fire, the Broadway musical homage to the Man in Black, covers a great deal of territory, musically, and biographically.

And it's clearly not just a country music crowd that gravitates toward the show.

"We're finding that the show draws people in who aren't necessarily really big Johnny Cash fans," says director Keely Enright, "This is Ring of Fire's first run in South Carolina, and it's been hugely successful for us."

Enright says her cast — three men and three women all taking turns at being Johnny Cash — has become downright smitten with the show's warm and wise, funny and nostalgic story. Since Ring of Fire follows Cash's own life story, there are moments of sadness and loss. Plenty of triumphant moments, too.

The most romantic arc of the show is the love story between Johnny and his wife, June. Their marriage bound together not just the pair of them, but also united two musical strands that became Americana, a national heritage that found its most influential — world-wide — ambassador in that tall, gaunt man.

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