Ring of Fire is Smokin’ Good

“Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.”

That simple, almost shy, introduction launches a night of foot stomping fun in Ring of Fire:  The Music of Johnny Cash by Richard Maltby, Jr. and William Meade and is currently playing at Maples Repertory Theatre.

This is one of the more challenging reviews I’ve taken up due to the unique nature of the show.  If you’re expecting a story, forget it.  If you’re counting on great characterization, it isn’t happening.  If you’re looking for a lot of fun, there’s plenty of that and then some.  This show is a jukebox musical.  There really isn’t much acting.  There are snippets of information about the life of Johnny Cash sandwiched between numerous musical numbers of the Man in Black as a loose story of sorts.  But this show is a great concert, guaranteed to leave you feeling good when the night is done.

The difficulty in mounting a show of this type is that (aside from the need for great performing chops) it really depends on the staging.  To that end, Marc Liby has done sensational work with slick staging that animates all of the musical numbers and showcases the talents of the show’s five performers.

While the entire ensemble was of top quality, I thought the work of Elliot Lane was particularly impressive.  He did the most acting and was the Johnny Cashiest of the bunch with a dead on vocal mimicry of the singer.  Lane really shone in numbers such as a gutbusting rendition of A Boy Named Sue and Flesh and Blood.  Not only was Lane an ace performer, he also proved himself an incredible instrumentalist as he floated between playing guitar, electric mandolin, and just sizzled on the violin.

Andrea Love does double duty as performer and musical director and earns top marks for both.  Her confident musical direction shows in the cast’s effortless performances and her pure soprano melted my heart with tunes such as I Still Miss Someone and If I Were a Carpenter.

Wyatt McCall was the most physically suitable Johnny Cash with his rich bass voice and powerful build.  McCall was also a very skilled bass player and had a wry sense of humor best utilized in Five Feet High and Rising.  But he could turn on the drama just as easily as he proves in Going to Memphis.

Sean Powell was another top performer of the night.  A talented multi-instrumentalist, Powell easily moved from the standup bass to the guitar and, man alive, does he have a fabulous tenor voice.  I thought Powell had the song of the night with a haunting rendition of Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down.

Connor Sullivan rounds out the troupe.  I see the makings of a great comedic actor in Sullivan with his awesome facial expressions and his sense of timing best demonstrated in Delia’s Gone.  He does need to work on his projection a bit as I had trouble hearing him at various points.

Johnny Cash is a true icon of music.  While you may not have any great revelations into the life and character of the Man in Black, you certainly will have a high old time enjoying his legendary music.

Ring of Fire:  The Music of Johnny Cash plays at Maples Repertory Theatre through July 24.  Performances are at 2pm on June 26 and July 1, 6, 10, 19, 20, and 24 and at 7:30pm on June 29 and July 22-23.  Tickets cost $27 for the main floor and $24 for the balcony.  For tickets contact the box office at 660-385-2924 or visit the website at www.maplesrep.com.  Maples Repertory Theatre is located at 102 N Rubey St in Macon, MO.

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A Season of Heroes

A SEASON OF HEROES AT THE MAPLES REP

Heroes come in many forms. 

            Some are musicians who tell stories with their songs that save people going through hard times.  Some are little old ladies working in the church basement, providing delicious food and uplifting the spirits of their community.  Some criminals can even be heroes when given the right circumstances.  These are just a few examples of the heroes you’ll see during the Maples Rep 2016 season.

 

            Of Mice and Men is a serious play, but that doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining.  Audiences certainly enjoyed Love Story, The Way We Were, Ordinary People, Million Dollar Baby and The Revenant?  So, if you like –admittedly non-traditional– love stories with heroes and villains, you need to see the Maples Rep production of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.”  Todd Davison-Artistic Director, Maples Rep.

 

Of Mice and Men opens Friday, June 24th on the main stage at Maples Rep in Macon, MO.  This American classic is a snapshot of Depression-era migrant workers and a tale about a tragic friendship. Two drifters, the opportunistic George and his friend Lenny, the gentle giant, travel the roads of northern California with delusions of living off the “fat of the land.” John Steinbeck wrote the novel and adapted it for the stage in 1937. It was a slice-of-life drama in its time and continues to resonate with students, readers and playgoers as a universal meditation on power, hope and consequences.

 The play shows us real people, good and bad, and this mixture lets the audience know that the world portrayed in Of Mice and Men is real. Steinbeck does not fall into the trap of describing all those with power as evil. He has created characters with serious weaknesses and with great strengths but his real interest is in people who are oppressed and weak, yearning and failing to take control of their lives.

 “The Royal Theatre is a great, intimate space to see such a moving story” says Maples Rep Artistic Director Todd Davison, “even if people are very familiar with this story, they will experience it in a new way.  With actors from New York, Chicago, Orlando, Missouri and Alberta the cast of this production, under the direction of Maples Rep veteran, Brandon McShaffrey, has wide experience to bring to their portrayals.”

 Of Mice and Men runs through July 17 in rotating repertory with Ring of Fire:  The Music of Johnny Cash, a musical about love and faith; struggle and success; rowdiness and redemption; and home and family. On July 15th one of heroes of the Bible–Joseph–takes the stage in the hit show Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The Biblical saga of Joseph and his coat of many colors comes to vibrant life in a delightful musical parable for the whole family.

In between and after the Maples Rep main stage productions are: Afterglows, Sunday Dinners, Cabarets, Kid’s Shows and Kid’s Theatre Camps.  For more information and to order tickets call the Maples Rep Box Office at 660-385-2924, order online at http://www.maplesrep.com/, or go by the theatre located on the corner of Rubey and Vine in Macon, Missouri.

The Man in Black Kicks Off Maples Repertory Season

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ONE WEEK! Can you believe it?! Maples Rep 2016 Season begins on June 15th with the opening of Ring of Fire:  The Music of Johnny Cash which features the music made famous by The Man in Black. Songs like “I Walk the Line, “ “A Boy Named Sue,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” and the title tune “Ring of Fire” take audiences on an inspired musical journey that is a foot-stompin’, crowd-pleasin’ salute to an American legend. From the iconic songbook of Johnny Cash comes this musical about love and faith, struggle and success, rowdiness and redemption, and home and family. Call now or visit our website to reserve your tickets!

Location:  Maples Repertory Theatre (102 N Rubey St, Macon, MO  63552)

Ticket Prices:  $27 (Main Floor)  $22 (Balcony)

Box Office:  660-385-2924 or http://www.maplesrep.com

A Journey Beyond Imagination, Day 4: Lines, Lines, Everywhere’s a Line

At long last we were going to experience the centerpiece of the Tokyo Maximum Tour.  Today we were heading to the Tokyo Game show, the second biggest video game show on the planet and the biggest that is open to the general public.

Back in the day I was a pretty avid gamer.  Even today, I break out my old systems once in a while to enjoy my collection.  So the idea of getting to see new technology and test games that hadn’t hit the market yet held a certain appeal for me.

Our group had special passes that allowed us entry to the show an hour before it started.  This was the best part of the day as there was time to slowly explore all of the vendors and get some sneak previews of new games.  But once the show was open to the rest of the public. . .Whoa Nellie!!!

Now I knew what a sardine must feel like.  Over a quarter of a million people were at the event and I felt squashed.  Lines to sample new video games quickly stretched to multi-hour waits.  Fortunately, I had my trusty Kindle to pass the time in line, but standing in line for 2 hours to play a new game for 15 minutes didn’t seem worth the wait.  I had hoped to play Resident Evil 6, but that ended up being one of the most popular games at the venue.  The wait got so long that the line was actually shut down on a couple of occasions.

Not that there weren’t interesting things to watch while I waited and wandered.  Legends in the video game field appeared for discussion panels and to introduce new games.  The legendary Japanese pro wrestler, Jushin “Thunder” Liger, made an appearance to promote a new wrestling video game and even competed in a match at the show. 

After a while, I managed to find a quiet corner where I could read and people watch until it was time for our group to head back to Ikebukuro.  If I had to do it over again, I probably would have cut this day short and gone to Tokyo Disneyland which we passed on the way to show.  In fact, I just may hit that place up when I return to Japan.

We were on our own for dinner that night, so Mat, Dave, and I did a little exploring on the streets of Ikebukuro.  A parade broke out in front of us a few blocks from the hotel and we found a little festival going on.  After wandering about the festival a bit, we continued up the street where we found a McDonald’s.

I admit I did want to eat at a McDonald’s in Japan just to say that I did it.  I expected to be able to find one, but what I didn’t expect is that I would find one every 6 blocks.  They were everywhere!  Aside from the fare one would expect, the menu also contains items for the Japanese palate.  Mat and Dave ordered Tsukimshi (Moon Viewing) burgers which were hamburgers topped with a sunny side up egg.  Egg burgers are quite popular in Japan.  I opted for a lettuce and pepper sauce burger which I found quite tasty.  I definitely wouldn’t mind this sandwich finding its way to America.

After dinner, the three of us met up with Mike and Yukie and we left to enjoy one of Japan’s favorite pastimes. . .karaoke.  Mat opened us up with a rendition of the opening theme to Golgo 13 (an anime series) which he sung in Japanese.  I followed up with a powerful rendition of Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire.  From there we were all took turns singing our hearts out for the next two hours and we closed the evening singing five part disharmony.  What a festive night.

It was back to our rooms to rest up for the next day.  This would be our first free day that we could use to examine Tokyo any way that we desired.