Phoenix Theatre tells the story of The Man in Black in ‘Ring of Fire’

BY Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Johnny Cash’s story will be told using 38 of The Man in Black’s songs during the Phoenix Theatre Company’s musical “Ring of Fire.”

The musical, which runs March 10 to April 4, will be performed at the theater’s new socially distanced outdoor stage.

“You’ll get the songs that are more well-known ones and the ones that are a little more obscure — but all really amazing songs,” says Scott Weinstein, “Ring of Fire” director.

“They’ve been repurposed in the different moments. ‘Country Boy’ was repurposed to be about his childhood, which is what he was about. ‘The song ‘Five Feet High and Rising’ was about a flood that nearly wiped out the family’s farm. That’s used in that context as well.”

The song “Ring of Fire” is performed like it would be in concert, but it’s also meant to be about his relationship with June.

Weinstein stressed “Ring of Fire” is not a tribute act but a musical. Five musicians play their own instruments.

“It’s a fun theatrical piece that has something for everyone,” Weinstein says. “There are recreations of some of his performances; the other times songs are more theatricalized. Fans of rock concerts will get that, and fans of musicals will get that, too.”

Weinstein is a familiar face to the Phoenix Theatre Company, as he also directed “Million Dollar Quartet.” Living in New York and working as a freelance director, Weinstein was referred by friends to the Phoenix Theatre Company.

“I just fell in love with this theater,” he says. “I go all over the world directing plays. It’s fun but hard. I don’t get to make relations everywhere I go. At the Phoenix Theatre, I bonded (with) all the staff, the community and the actors.

“The moment I got here, I was welcomed by everyone. I had so much fun working with this amazing team and staff. We rehearsed in masks and face shields.”

In “Ring of Fire,” two actors play Cash — Alex Crossland plays the young version of him, and Greg Hammer, who played Cash in “Million Dollar Quartet” stars as the singer later in life.

“It’s really all five people embodying the spirit of Johnny Cash,” Weinstein says. “The spirit infuses the whole show. It’s much more theatrical in context.

“It’s very fun and cool. What’s nice, too, is it leaves room for the audience to have their own experience with it in a way. They can loosely see their own lives in it and take these songs as a metaphor.”

Weinstein is a longtime Cash fan whose love and appreciation deepened through his work on “Million Dollar Quartet.” Cash’s music, Weinstein says, has a real staying power because good stories “never really go out of style.”