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Show and Tell: 'Ring of Fire' Is Foot-stompin' Fun

More concert than play, Centerstage Theatre's new production brings the music of Johnny Cash to life

Published on: January 27, 2016

Courtesy Centerstage Theatre
Courtesy Centerstage Theatre

The bottom line

Ring of Fire, a musical tribute to legendary singer/songwriter Johnny Cash, plays at Federal Way's Centerstage Theater through February 14. More of a concert than a play, Ring of Fire is a foot-stompin’ fun musical, recommended for older kids and their parents. Johnny Cash-loving parents would also really enjoy it as a date night. 


The cast of this lively production comprises six musicians, five men and one woman. Cayman Ilika (who played Mary Poppins in Village Theatre's production last year) plays both Johnny’s first and second wives with humor and an amazing vocal range. Jared Michael Brown inhabits the character of The Man in Black with grace and a gorgeous voice.

This play contains very little dialogue, and is NOT a biography of the star’s life. Instead aspects of his life story are explored through his music. Tunes such as “In the Sweet Bye and Bye” and “Daddy Sang Bass” showcase his strong religious faith and deep love of family. Other songs, such as “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Man in Black,” spotlight his quest for social justice. If you know a little about Cash, you will see facets of his life reflected in his songs, and if you don’t, you’ll still enjoy the music.

Courtesy Centerstage Theatre
Courtesy Centerstage Theatre

Although I’m not a huge country-and-western music fan, I really enjoyed this show. The music varied from gospel to rockabilly, and I was surprised at how many songs I knew. All of the male actors accompanied themselves with a variety of instruments, including bass, electric and acoustic guitar as well as drums. Having the instruments right there on stage instead of in a pit added to the experience. Cool lighting effects added to the atmosphere, especially during the “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Five Feet High and Rising” songs. The last song, “A Boy Named Sue,” had the audience laughing out loud.

Parents should know

The show is generally very clean: There is a very brief mention of Cash’s amphetamine addiction, in which he talks of “pills that keep him awake,” but most kids won’t get the reference. There are one or two instances of mild cursing. But because this is more concert than play, I would recommend Ring of Fire for older kids who enjoy this type of music, and can sit through a mostly musical show.

The 15- and 16-year-olds who accompanied me to the show enjoyed it, but I doubt my 12- and 8-year-old kids would have been able to sit through it.

If you go ...

When: Ring of Fire plays at Centerstage Theatre through Feb. 14

Where: Centerstage Theatre, 3200 S.W. Dash Point Road in Federal Way

Prices: Tickets are $35 for adults, $30 for seniors and military, and $15 for youth under age 25. Buy online.

Tips: Bottled water, coffee, adult beverages and small snacks are available for sale in the lobby. Alcoholic beverages can be preordered before the show. There is open seating, so you might want to arrive early.

Driving directions tip: The theater is located in a wooded area. After leaving the main road, you will drive down a long, curving road. As the box office told me, “You will think you are lost, but you’re not!” They also recommend, if using GPS, entering the whole street name and not abbreviating “point” or “road.” That said, I had no trouble finding the theater.

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