Theater Review: Stellar cast in Ring of Fire at The Fireside

By Edith McCauley
Theater Critic

Director Ed Flesch continues to choose outstanding performers for the shows at the Fireside in Fort Atkinson, Wis. His many years of experience make him an expert in mounting musicals of the past and new works recently seen on Broadway. Ring of Fire details the life and music of Johnny Cash, and in speaking with the cast following the show, they credit much of the success to Flesch.

Richard Maltby Jr., creator of the show, conceived and directed the memorable Ain’t Misbehavin’, a tribute to Fats Waller and his music. He uses many of the same techniques in Ring of Fire. The show opens with the introduction of the actors who play Johnny Cash at every stage of his life. The songs he wrote and performed for so many years are literally the artistic and emotional history of this much-beloved artist.

The amazing cast play a multitude of instruments. Musical Director Mary Ehlinger uses a background score, but the actors’ ability to enhance their songs instrumentally makes it seem that they play every note.

Matthew Guy Magnusson is one of the many faces and voices of Cash. His physical resemblance is stunning. Red-headed, Chris Blisset’s voice and body language make him a perfect actor for the role of Cash. Early in the show, he relates the tragic death of his beloved brother with great sensitivity, and we see the importance of family that carries him to a lifetime of success.

Jennie Malone arrives on stage in nearly every scene with a different instrument. Her melodic voice blends beautifully. Malone’s voice is that of the finest in her profession. Katy Gentry’s energetic performance is showcased in every number, especially in the hilarious “Flushed From the Bathroom of Your Heart.” Reanna Muskovitz moves from Cash’s loving mother in “Five Feet High and Rising” to “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” the reality of Cash’s life when abusing drugs and alcohol.

The deepest voice on stage is that of Peyton Crim, young in years but able to reach the bass notes we remember so well. Filling out the cast are Amanda Ryan Paige and Larry Tobias. Both have years of experience touring and performing in theaters throughout the country. Tobias is thrilled to be working with Ed Flesch. An actor can be judged by his stage presence, and Tobias’ years of experience are evident.

Our country’s financial difficulties have affected every aspect of society, and that is especially true in the entertainment and food industry. The Fireside Theatre opened in 1978, bringing fine theater and exceptional cuisine to thousands of enthusiastic patrons. This season has been slow, but Ring of Fire turns things around. The house was packed Saturday, and the response of the audience assures a successful run. Having just opened, the show runs through Aug. 29. Hairspray opens Sept. 2 and plays through Oct. 31. Closing the season is The Child, the story of the first Christmas. Ticket information is available by calling (800) 477-9505 or by going online at

Highly recommended…Ring of Fire will provide summer entertainment for you and your entire family.

From the Aug. 4-10, 2010 issue

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