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Players ready for Ring of Fire

The Canebrake Players will provide a whole new look at “The Man in Black” next week when they perform Ring of Fire.

“It is what is generally called a jukebox musical. Basically what that means is that it is just one artist or one genre with song after song after song with very little dialogue that ties it together,” Kirk Brooker, the show’s director, said. “You will get the story of Johnny Cash, but it is not acted out in the general sense that you’re used to. There’s not a Johnny Cash character. Everybody is Johnny Cash.”

The cast and crew have spent the better part of six weeks working on the show, a task that has seen 28 cast members and five musicians spend countless hours at the Canebrake Theater.

“Over half the cast has never been in a show,” Brooker said. “However, all are very gifted singers. All bring a natural talent. Doing a musical like this, I am certainly challenging them with some choreography most have never experienced. Also, and this is with any play or musical we do, you’re bringing volunteers together and people that want to put together a great show. But they are people that are working 9-to-5 and then coming in to spend three or four hours together in rehearsal. That is a challenge in and of itself.”

The production will rely almost exclusively on songs to tell the story of Johnny Cash. Originally arranged for eight individuals, Brooker and the Canebrake Players will put a whole new spin on Ring of Fire.

“The show was actually written for eight people, four males, four females. Basically they played guitar and sang on stage throughout the entire show,” Brooker said. “I decided to take it a different direction. I had great auditions and kept everybody that came and worked in a chorus.”

Brooker said the greatest appeal of the show is the music of Johnny Cash, a legendary artist whose influence crosses genres and generations.

“I searched pretty extensively for something that I wanted to appeal to people that haven’t been in productions in the past and then also appeal to a wider audience. To me, something like Johnny Cash, he has people that appreciate and like his music from 20 year olds all the way on up,” Brooker said. “I wanted something that people would leave singing the music, even if they didn’t grow up with Cash. One of the things that is so cool about his music, I think, is he certainly has a definite sound. But all his music is different. What’s really cool about this show, you could laugh, you could cry, you could sing along. It’s got a little bit of everything.”

Ring of Fire will open Thursday, Aug. 18 at 7 p.m. with shows coming at 7 Friday night and Saturday. The show will have its final performance Sunday, Aug. 21 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for students, including college students with a university ID.