Music ReviewsMUST SEEREVIEWSREVIEWS BYTheatre ReviewsTom Williams

Ring of Fire – The Music of Johnny Cash at the Mercury Theatre Chicago

Now extended by popular demand through November 1, 2015

Created by Richard Maltby, Jr.ringoffire

Conceived by William Meade

Directed by Brian Russell

Musical Direction by Malcolm Ruhl

At the Mercury Theatre Chicago

Revise, refined yet still a crowd pleaser –Ring of Fire – The Music of Johnny Cash delights

My third visit to Ring of Fire was amazing! It still has the energy, the polish and the terrific musicianship even after hunfreds of performances. Put this show on your list of “MUST SEE” show this fall. – Tom Williams

“Hello, I’m Johnny Cash!”


After a smash-hit production at the Theatre At The Center in Munster, IN, Richard Friedman and director Brian Russell have re-mounted the Johnny Cash revue in Chicago at the Mercury Theatre with the entire cast, only adding Austin Cook.


This toe-tapping revue presents a major country/folk oeuvre of the iconic voice of Johnny Cash (1932 – 2003)- one of America’s greatest troubadours- in Ring of Fire. Cash was considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, whose songs included cowboy, folk, gospel, country, rockability, rock n’ roll, and pop music. From 1955 until his death at age 71 in 2003, Cash, with his wife June Carter Cash, toured the country singing his heartfelt repertoire of pure Americana tunes. His distinct bass-baritone voice was his calling card.


Director Brian Russell has re-assembled a cast of  seven terrific musicians, many of whom play several instruments as they faithfully recreate the signature Johnny Cash sound. Kent Lewis uses his bass baritone to nicely render the Cash songbook.  He gets help from Michael Monroe Goodman, who expertly sings the “Young Johnny Cash.” Greg Hirte’s terrific fiddle playing, with Malcolm Ruhl’s bass fiddle and guitar work, together with newbie (to this production) Austin Cook on piano, and Billy Shuffer’s percussion round out the fabulous music that underscores the Cash tunes.

Besides the two worthy Johnny Cashs, Cory Goodrich channels June Carter Cash beautifully, as she has that southern twang down pat. Goodrich is a hoot as she shows her ability to sing faster and faster in the hilarious show-stopping song “I’ve Been Everywhere,” wherein she names cities rapid fire. Goodrich nails the power duet, “If I Were A Carpenter,” with Kent Lewis.


This toe-tapping revue contains 32 of Cash’s songs including hits: “Daddy Sang Bass,” “Ring of Fire,” “Jackson,” “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Man in Black,” and “A Boy Named Sue.”  Lewis and his alter ego Goodman most effectively sing in Cash’s style without imitating him, a good decision. While this show is really a revue, the order of songs give a reflection of Cash’s story from the cotton fields of Arkansas, to the Grand Ole Opry, to TV shows and world tours.

This is a crowd pleaser that quickly got the opening night audience clapping and cheering. Johnny Cash would appreciate the superbly produced tribute to his legend and his songbook. This remount is tighter, more polished, and more refined, and the cast seems to be having as good a time as the foot-stomping opening night audience. Cheers abound with this thoroughly pleasing show. The deft Johnny Cash-style  singing by Lewis and Goodman was awesome, but Corey Goodrich almost steals the show with her amazing country singing. This is a major treat for spring and summer in Chicago. Take the entire family to see this fun show!

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

At the Mercury Theatre 3745 N. Southport, Chicago, IL, call 773-325-1700,, tickets $25 -$65, Wednesdays at 7:30 pm, Thursdays at 3 & 7;30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 3 & 8 pm, Sundays at 3 & 7 pm, running time is 1 hour 55 minutes with intermission.