St. George-Ring of Fire, featuring the music of Johnny Cash, is a musical created by Richard Maltby, Jr. and conceived by William Mead. It premiered on Broadway for a short time in 2006, and has had some limited performances throughout the country. It is making its debut at Tuacahn in their indoor Hafen Theatre as part of the 2024 Summer Tuacahn Season. 

Though billed as a musical, the show is much more of a musical review of Johnny Cash music, with more than 30 different Johnny Cash songs sung by a cast of eight players. What is much more impressive than the singing is the fact that each of these players also serve as the orchestra for the evening, with each cast member listed as at least three instrument players, and one cast member, Sarah Hund, with an impressive seven instruments listed as well as her acting and singing capabilities. 

While the music was the main attraction of this show, there were certainly other elements that added some fun to this afternoon of entertainment. One of the best things that caught my attention was the costume design by April Soroko. Because Cash’s musical career spans many decades, the costumes of the players also spanned many decades. This was something that could have been ignored in a tribute type concert, but Soroko has paid close attention to the ambience of storytelling through costume, and the way the dresses and outfits change were quite mesmerizing. I also appreciated how the outfits of Benjamin D. Hale, who represented Cash, stayed black in the representation of the lyrics of the song Man in Black. 

Speaking of Hale, he is not a stranger to Tuacahn, having been in previous years productions of Million Dollar Quartet as Cash. His voice, mannerisms, and looks are so similar to Cash that it is no wonder he has been brought back to play the role. It truly is difficult to believe when watching Hale that one is not watching Cash. When I learned that I would be seeing Hale again, I knew I would enjoy the show because of his performance alone. What I was surprised about was how much I enjoyed the rest of the performances, being a bit younger than the Johnny Cash demographic and usually preferring a show with more of a plot. 

The sheer talent of this cast kept me riveted. When Mimi Bessette started singing the lead on the song I’ve Been Everywhere, I was mesmerized. Her ability to continue to sing faster and faster yet remain on rhythm, on pitch, and keep her breath was nothing short of miraculous. On top of this, she would be switching from the guitar to the bass with ease. Watching the other actors do this as well kept me watching from the beginning to end even though I was mostly unfamiliar with the music and much of the life of Johnny Cash. 

The set design and lighting design by Paul Black, combined with the video design by Brad Peterson also added a great deal to the imagery. The set was a basic concert set, which was added on to for different scenes. Some of the best additions were things like the grand old opry scenes, and when old footage of actual concerts or images of people the players were representing. The combination of history with music was executed flawlessly. Attending a matinee performance, it seemed the majority of the audience was made up of the exact demographic for this show, and it was clear that the production had hit the right notes for everyone. While it was quite enjoyable to listen to solo numbers like Hale singing a Boy Named Sue, the cast was shining their brightest when they were all singing and playing together. Some of the best highlights were Daddy Sang Bass, Going to Memphis, Country Boy, and of course the title song Ring of Fire. While this production certainly does not have the flashy spectacle of the mainstage shows at Tuacahn, it was a lovely afternoon display of talent. 

Ring of Fire plays from now until August 10 on various days at 7:30pm with some 2pm Matinees, at Tuacahn Amphitheatre (1100 Tuacahn Drive, Ivins, Utah 84738). Tickets are $35-$108. For more information, visit https://www.tuacahn.org/.