Several local performers will step out of their comfort zones and onto the Lucille Ball Little Theatre stage in February. The production of "Ring of Fire," the Johnny Cash musical show, will bring the theater into a different musical territory than performers and audiences have experienced.
"It's not like a normal musical would be; it has more of a concert form," said longtime director Helen Merrill. "We don't have speaking parts other than telling the story of Johnny Cash's life. We use his music, and we intersperse with dialogue."
According to performer Jenn Davis, the show features a mix of roughly 80 percent music and 20 percent dialogue. The concert-type musical includes 38 musical numbers.
From left, David Young, Adam McKillip, Jenn Davis, Gale Svenson-Campbell and Melanie Luciano perform Johnny Cash’s “Jackson” during a recent “Ring of Fire” rehearsal at the Lucille Ball Little Theatre of Jamestown.
P-J?photo by Scott Shelters
"You get more of a narrative," said Davis, a second-year Little Theatre performer. "The songs are placed nicely within the context of the show. They reflect different parts of his life."
No specific performers will portray the characters of Johnny Cash or June Carter; they all will. Due to the musical's concert-like tendencies, the performers will act and play instruments from the stage, eliminating the need for a separate ensemble.
"Rather than having a separate pit and cast members, we all do a little of both," Davis said. "It's a collaboration."
What: ''Ring of Fire''
When: Fridays and Saturdays, Feb. 3-4 and 10-11, at 8 p.m.; Sundays, Feb. 5 and 12, at 2 p.m.
Where: Lucille Ball Little Theatre of Jamestown, 18 E. Second St.
How much: $20 for single-admission tickets
For more info: 483-1095
For some of the 11 cast members, Feb. 3 won't just bring about a new style of community theater; it will bring them to the Little Theatre stage for the first time.
Adam McKillip and Melanie Luciano, who make up local two-piece band Onomatopoeia, fall into that group.
With their instrumentalist backgrounds, McKillip and Luciano know what it's like to perform in front of audiences, but they're not as familiar with doing so in a theatrical setting. The musical's upbeat nature and heavy reliance on instruments appeals to them.
"The fact that music is incorporated in it so much makes me a lot more comfortable. It makes it easier to get into it," said Luciano, who last took part in a theatrical production as a Dunkirk High School student. "Johnny Cash is so iconic; it's different to be playing that type of music. This has been so much fun; I might keep doing it."
McKillip, the production's lead guitarist, hasn't performed in a musical since his days at Falconer High School. Theater may be slightly out of his comfort zone, but playing country music isn't.
"I played bluegrass for a long time, so it's not too far off," he said.
Country music rings a bell with 2011 Chautauqua's Got Talent winner Julie Cotter, who returns to the theater after performing in "Chicago" and "Annie."
While growing up, she used to sing country songs with her parents in their car. Cotter will sing frequently in "Ring of Fire." She'll also dance throughout the production and will play guitar for one song.
A chorus teacher at Maple Grove High School, Cotter believes children and adults will enjoy the "Ring of Fire" production. After showing the film on Cash's life, "Walk The Line," to her students, she knows the artist's music resonates through the generations.
"I show that movie to my students, and they're like, 'We love Johnny Cash,'" she said. "I think this will work for a wide spectrum of people."
Bryan Voorhis, a Little Theatre veteran of a few years, has more experience as a vocalist than as an instrumentalist. As a result, he'll do more singing than anything else in "Ring of Fire." He expects audiences will enjoy the theater's trip into country-music territory.
"It's fast-paced from one song to the next," he said. "I think the audience is going to be really into it and on the edges of their seats."
Like Davis, Cotter and Voorhis, several of the production's performers return to Little Theatre after taking part in previous shows.
Gale Svenson-Campbell returns to the Little Theatre stage for the first time in a decade. Heather Young has been involved with the theater for 10 years, serving in various capacities. She has acted and handled technical aspects of productions. This time around, she'll perform on stage, adding backup vocals and playing instruments. Her husband, David, a truck driver for New England Motor Freight, will perform at Little Theatre for the third time, adding guitar and vocals to the show.
Merrill believes Little Theatre has assembled a strong cast of performers. She hopes they'll give local residents what they want.
"We're taking off on a brand new little branch of the theater, (and) we're trying to see what kind of response we get," she said. "I think people will be sorry if they don't see it. Whether you're a country fan or a Johnny Cash fan, you're going to leave here singing and tapping your toes."