Hello, we're Johnny Cash! Eight different leads present The Man in Black in Ring of FireSeptember 5, 2012
(Charlottetown) - Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash features eight different leads that embody the voice and spirit of the famous icon. While some may find this unconventional, audiences have flocked to The Homburg Theatre this summer and have enjoyed debating just who their ‘favourite Cash' is.
Some are well known, such as fan favourite Kristen Peace or Charlottetown's Julain Molnar, but three newer faces to locals are Jake Simons, Ben Kunder and Alicia Toner. Not only do these talented leads sing on Cash hits like ‘Jackson' and ‘A Boy Named Sue', but they also play in the live band, hopping from instrument to instrument across the staggering 40-song revue that Fire tackles.
"This is such a fun show to perform - it's a cross between a stage play and a live concert," says Simons. "It's a real treat to play a venue like Confederation Centre where the sound is great and you have an audience listening intently."
Simons grew up in Kitchener, Ontario where he quit hockey at the age of 11 to take up break-dancing and music. After years of playing the bar circuit across Ontario, he trained in theatre and today teaches performing arts in Guelph when not performing in musicals. Some Island ladies were thrilled to learn that Simons portrayed the lead in Dirty Dancing during a two-year run, a role that stays with him today. "I still get people asking me to say: ‘Nobody puts Baby in a corner!" he laughs.
As part of Ring of Fire's live band Simons strums guitar for most of the night alongside Kunder and others. For Kunder, the three-dozen songs are a marathon as he switches between five instruments in addition to singing lead. Kunder, who some Islanders may remember as Ritchie Valens from Buddy last year, grew up in Toronto with plenty of folk music in the house. His father, an actor himself, gave him his first guitar along with chord books for Dylan, Young and Cohen.
Today, Kunder leads two lives - one as an actor and one as a rising songwriter with his band The Bird Dogs, which features Charlottetown's Brian Murphy on guitar. He plans on recording an album with Murphy and the band by early winter.
"The amazing thing about coming here though is that Islanders embrace the kind of music I love - folk and roots," says Kunder. "Here, I can perform the show then go and play a great gig at Fishbones or Baba's."
Alicia Toner grew up in Fredericton, New Brunswick as part of a musical family, playing in a Celtic band with her uncle for a time. She studied classical music but was intrigued by Maritime fiddlers. "Natalie MacMaster got my attention," she recalls. "Natalie could step dance and sing while playing which made me really want to try fiddle."
Since the show began, all three leads have gained a great admiration for Cash. "Johnny is really an amazing man, not just a musician," says Toner. "He was always fighting for a cause and wasn't afraid to push boundaries."
"I admire him because he came from nothing, overcame personal tragedy and remained humble throughout his life," states Simons.
For Kunder, he relates to Cash as a songwriter, "Cash truly understands the average person. He can tell stories you connect with. It's not about him and his life; it's about the world's story."
Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash plays The Homburg Theatre at Confederation Centre until September 29.
Cutline for the photo:
Jake Simons looks on as Alicia Toner plants one on Ben Kunder's cheek during the song 'I Feel Better All Over' from Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash (Louise Vessey photo).
Fraser McCallum, Communications Manager, Confederation Centre of the Arts
T: 902.628.6135 (office) E: email@example.com
www.facebook.com/charlottetownfestival | Twitter: @confedboxoffice