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Category: Musicals


Kelley as Auntie Em (center)

Anyone that knows me, knows that when things get weird, I’m apt to look up and say “Auntie Em, Auntie Em.” Mainly because I would feel pretty damn stupid clicking my heels. Neither of which proves to be very effective. Things still get weird.

That said, wouldn’t you figure that my granddaughter, Kelley Strockbine, would play Auntie Em in The Wizard of Oz at her school, Homestead Elementary on Saturday, May 5. Encore Kids is a company that teaches acting to elementary students in schools which lack the resources.

Kelley also played one of the Lullaby League Munchkins and part of an Ensemble. All the kids did a very good job. The sound could have been louder, but everyone got the gist of it. After all, we’ve heard the story. It was a cute interpretation.

The Lion was a substitute from another school. The girl that played the lion at Homestead woke up with appendicitis and had to be rushed to the hospital. By show time at 4:30 p.m. (I understood why it was that late on a Saturday, but still wasn’t real pleased), she no longer had her appendix and was doing well.

As I said, it was a cute interpretation of the Wizard of Oz. All the children did a very good job. And kudos to Encore Kids for helping to keep arts in the elementary schools.

Cast of Oz

Peace be with you.

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Cast - courtesy of Water Tower Theater

Cast – courtesy of Water Tower Theater

I won tickets to see Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash at the Water Tower Theater in Addison. I entered the drawing in the KERA Art & Seek newsletter. Cyndy and I arrived at the theater not knowing what to expect, other than Johnny Cash music. We’re not really current on Broadway Musicals. We were pleasantly surprised with both the theater and the musical.

The staff was very helpful and friendly. At the box office we were told that they had seats for us, but wanted to wait to see if they could have better seats. We returned to the box office just as the doors opened. There were other people waiting that were on standby. A staff member with the list came out and called out a name, but the person wasn’t there.

The next name she called out was mine. She handed us generic tickets without seat numbers, pointed to the usher, and said we could sit in any empty seats except K103. The usher looked at the tickets and said to wait because there were still people coming in. When he realized they were standby, he said he guessed we could sit in the seats I asked about. We sat on the front row.

Ring of Fire is four people playing Johnny Cash music: in the order of the picture -Sonny Franks as David, Katrina Kratzer as Trenna, Spencer Baker, as Eddie, Ian Ferguson as Mark, and Brian Mathis as Jason. Sonny Franks was also the musical director. He played accompaniment and comic relief. The choreography between songs was sparse but very effective without flaw.

Mathis/Jason entered the stage through the audience dressed in black. For all intents and purposes Jason played the mature Johnny Cash. He also did the lion’s share of narration. Kratzer/Trenna represented June Carter Cash by default and by design. Although I do not think June could come close to playing the fiddle/violin like Kratzer does. As we musicians say “she flat tore it up.” And while I think she would also fit in an orchestral setting, she seemed more at home playing fiddle.

Eddie and Mark alternated between representing the younger Cash and being accompanist, depending on the song. By representing, I mean loosely. No one was actually being Johnny or June. Which made it all the more fun.

In Act 1, the cast performed some of the couple’s more popular tunes such as Five Feet High and Rising, Daddy Sang Bass, Get Rhythm, Ring of Fire, and Jackson. As well as lesser known comical songs, Egg Suckin’ Dog, and Flushed From the Bathroom Of Your Heart. During Egg Suckin’ Dog, played by the male members of the cast, David went into the audience for a “fourth member of the quartet.” The young man stood wearing a silly hat and sheepish grin – being the egg suckin’ dog. Thus ended the mystery of why we couldn’t sit in K103.

In Act 2, they performed the heavy hitters – the most popular of the couple’s songs. I’ve Been Everywhere, Sunday Morning Coming Down, Delia’s Gone, and Folsom Prison Blues, to name a few. As well as Man In Black, I Walk the Line, Hey Porter, and A Boy Named Sue (the final song). One of the most emotional parts of the evening was when Trenna and Jason did a duet on Waiting on the Far Side of Jordan. If you don’t know the song or the story, it’s about a woman who says that if she is the first to go, she will wait on the “far side of Jordan” with her hand outstretched for her husband to join her. June did, in fact, pass away first, with Johnny following not long after. There was not a dry eye in the house when the song ended.

Ring of Fire runs through Sunday at the Water Tower Theater. Do yourself a favor and go see the musical. Even if you have to get on the standby list – which could work in your favor. It is a delightful musical journey through the life of Johnny Cash and his lifelong love with June Carter Cash.

Peace be with you.

 

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