Russell to direct TNW's Cash show

A member of the local arts community will be directing Theatre NorthWest's upcoming production of Ring of Fire: The Johnny Cash Story that will take audiences through the legend's whole life.

Along with director Anna Russell, two local performers, Curtis Abriel and Amy Blanding, will also be involved in this project by taking to the stage with the rest of the cast of five when the show opens on Nov. 28.

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Russell came to Prince George eight years ago from Vancouver and has directed several musical and dramatic productions through Judy Russell Presents.

Theatre NorthWest's executive director, Marnie Hamagami, reached out to Russell to see if she wanted the job.

Russell said Prince George having a professional theatre company was important to her.

"Before I agreed to move to Prince George here with my husband (Judy and Bill Russell's son Matt), I looked into the community and what was available and I did check to see if there were any professional theatres in town, so Theatre NorthWest was a big motivating factor to actually get me to move to Prince George so this is a full circle moment for me as I get the chance to direct something here," Russell said.

The play has been cast and Russell is in the early research stages while the theatre is already in the process of building the set, which will be put in storage after it's built and then erected when it's time to present the play.

Russell believes Ring of Fire is a good match for the TheatreWest audience, who was very responsive to Million Dollar Quartet, a musical which was presented last year on the professional theatre stage.

Who's got the lead?

"Everybody's Johnny Cash," Russell said.

At different points throughout his life, at different moments, each of the five cast members takes on the role of Johnny Cash, she explained.

"It's definitely a kind of intimate concert feel with all five actors on the stage," Russell described the upcoming production. "It's going to be a real showcase for everybody and the story itself follows Johnny Cash from childhood through his more rebellious days that eventually leads to the end of his life where he comes full circle - it's a Ring of Fire."

Because it's a unique play, it offers the opportunity to bring some original elements to the play and Russell is just starting to develop those ideas now.

Rehearsals will start three weeks before the play begins, as is traditional in a professional setting.

"I am really excited to work with Anna, having a group of local directors is really exciting for the organization," Hamagami said. "We have been very intentional over the past four years about developing local professionals with the technical expertise to operate the theatre and adding directors to that group is very exciting."

Tickets are available at TheatreNorthWest.com or Book & Company.

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