Get rhythm with Stars' Johnny Cash musical

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The Man in Black doesn't appear in "Ring of Fire: The Songs of Johnny Cash" but his influence is felt throughout.

This jukebox musical opening this weekend at Stars Theatre Restaurant provides an introspective view from Johnny Cash, said director Alex Neal.

"It's as if you’re reading a journal entry from his life that sets up each individual song. Seeing June Carter for the first time, what life was like on the farm — it does relate directly to his life. Everyone is a version of Johnny Cash."

The cast includes Ken Burdick, Rob Lang, Scott Deaton, Dominic Morenovilla and Jaqueline Morenovilla, who, as the sole woman in the cast, is able to embody the many women in Cash's life including his mother and great love June Carter Cash.

With such a small cast, who are required to both sing and play instruments at times, selecting the right people was key, Neal said.

"A lot of them knew Johnny Cash's music. Two are diehard Cash fans, one (Lang) who has been giving us all the deep cuts as well and feels very influenced by his music."

Instruments run the gamut from "a washboard and harmonica to bass guitar and mandolin and everything in between" for the actors.

This approach allows for "a dynamic and engaging performance, showcasing the versatility of the cast and the breadth of Cash's music," Neal said.

The show also includes a band, led by Cody Greenwell, featuring musicians Jeff Ardray, Cyndi Hicks, Kevin Willey and Sarah Haggard, the niece of Merle Haggard, another country great.

Neal said Haggard told him her famous relative was inspired by Cash early in his career. (Haggard's first Cash show was a San Quentin Prison concert on New Year's Day 1958. Three years later, Haggard had recorded his first top 20 country single.)

The show includes many great numbers, each with its own unique charm, Neal said, but he singles out the show's titular track for its iconic status and powerful melody.

"It's a song that captures the essence of Cash's musical genius."

He's also a fan of "Man in Black," performed by Burdick.

"Ken does an awesome job portraying the emotions in that song," Neal said.

The director praised his immensely talented cast and said they are looking forward to opening night.

"This production is a labor of love from everyone involved. The cast, crew and creative team have poured their hearts into making this show something special."

"We have a few surprises waiting for our audiences as well. We can’t wait to show them what we can do."