Hunchback of Notre Dame; Ring of Fire

Josh D. Smith, the music director of Ring of Fire, was music director at Mac-Hadyn for nine years.

ring of fireIt’s obviously for my own sake, not yours, that I review shows that my family sees ON THE LAST DAY OF THE PERFORMANCE.

We went to Mac-Hadyn Theatre in Chatham on August 5 to see The Hunchback of Notre Dame. My daughter kept correcting my wife’s pronunciation of the last word in the title; it DOESN’T rhyme with Mame.

Odd thing about the story. I’ve never read the book. Somehow, I had never seen the Disney adaptation BUT I own the soundtrack on CD. I’m fond of that music, particularly The Bells of Notre Dame and Hellfire.

The production was great, as usual. But what I should mention more often is the fact that when the minor characters are in the aisles leading to the tiny stage, they remain in character, not just waiting for their entrances.

And these people can SING! And, seemingly, singing right to the audience, and enjoying our appreciation of their vocal prowess.

On August 12 at Capital Rep downtown, we saw Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash. Coincidentally, Josh D. Smith, the music director of the show, was music director at Mac-Hadyn for nine years.

There were six musicians (plus the drummer, cordoned off) on stage, singing, playing multiple instruments – at least three of them played the upright bass. I was surprised to see a choreographer, Freddy Ramirez, listed, but there WAS a lot of movement on stage.

The first act was more biography, using the songs to tell John R. Cash’s story – and the latter, more of a jukebox musical. But the second act had the a cappella The Far Side Banks of Jordan, which was stellar.

I didn’t know this until afterwards, but there was a
1996 Broadway version of this show, which flopped after less than five dozen performances. This iteration has been whittled down in length, and from various reviews, for the better.

I was personally disappointed that Hurt, Johnny’s last great song, didn’t make the cut, but Ring of Fire. having nothing to do with volcanoes and earthquakes, was a monumental achievement.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

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