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Ring of Fire

The songs of music legend Johnny Cash come to life in this new musical revue.

Beth Malone

Age: "Oh My God! I don't want to tell you."

Currently: Singing and dancing to the Johnny Cash songbook in the musical revue Ring of Fire.

Hometown: Castle Rock, Colorado. "I was from a cow town. My Mom would take me to Denver to see the really, really big shows. It was a huge deal."

TV Dreams to Off-B'way Reality: It was watching Singin' in the Rain on TV as a kid that sparked Malone's stage aspirations. By the time she was in junior high, she landed the title role in Annie. "I was a big geek in high school, a total theater geek," Malone admits. After receiving her master's degree of fine arts from the University of California at Irvine, she did many regional productions, mostly on the West Coast. She also did a slew of commercials and guest spots on TV, such as Judging Amy and Reno 911.

Frequent Flyer: New to Gotham, Malone found herself quickly in demand. To her surprise, she was cast in both off-Broadway's Bingo and Ring of Fire, which was out of town in Buffalo for a pre-Broadway run, at the same time. "I was flying back and forth from Buffalo to New York City, rehearsing Bingo while doing Ring of Fire at night there," Malone explains. "I've only been in New York City for four or five months. It's awesome!"

Not Since Beatlemania: Making her Broadway debut, Malone was full of excitement. "It's really surreal!" After the opening night curtain went down, she went back to her dressing room, took off her microphone and started to change out of her wardrobe when an announcement over the PA system telling the cast to come back to the stage for another bow as the audience wasn't leaving. "I was throwing clothes back on and it was…Wow!" she remembers. "It was like we were the Beatles!" So how was Malone's first experience with fans waiting at the backstage door? "I've never had the stage door experience in my life, so to walk out there and have people waiting there with Sharpies... It's a trip!" But what really amuses Malone, however, are the comments about her co-star, Jarrod Emick. "People have said to me that Jarrod's jeans should have their own bio because they are so beautiful."

Stand by Your Cast: The two-stepping you see onstage doesn't end at the curtain call. Indeed, every Thursday night, Malone confesses, the cast of Ring of Fire goes out for a hootenanny. "We just like to hangout and play music together," she says. "We know this might not last forever, so we want to hang together as much as we can." And how would she describe her female co-stars? Let's start with Grammy-winning Lari White. "She gave me a fur coat for opening night!" Malone exclaims. "I wear this dorky parka to work every day and she was terrified that I was going to wear it over my opening night dress. So she presented me with this amazing fur coat. I was just like, 'Shut up!' It's trippy!" Her other female co-star, Cass Morgan, who Malone considers to be "the heart of the show," had to leave Ring of Fire during previews for health issues. Naturally, the cast was very emotional about Morgan's situation. "There were a lot of tears," Malone sighs. "It was really scary." Morgan was back on her feet and wowing the crowds in time for opening night: "We just love the shit out of her! She's an amazing human being."

A Revue of Musicians: Directed by Richard Maltby, Jr., Fire follows a nontraditional narrative form; there are no specific characters. It's a unique theatrical interpretation that Malone thinks folks should stop by and check out. "If you go in expecting it to be a revue, you are going to get more," she clarifies. "But if you go in expecting it to be a play, you're going to be disappointed. If you go in there thinking, 'I'm going to hear the best musicians in the world delivering Johnny Cash music,' then you are going to get more!"

Broadway Tune-up: Throughout Ring of Fire the cast members play various instruments. At one point all six leads and the eight musicians stand in a line and play the guitar. "I know the guitar so that was a really lucky thing," she said. Malone suggested that she play a few tunes with the band, but she was instead handed the tambourine and "the chains." "I was like, why don't you put a dunce cap on the top of my head and send me out in the middle of the stage," she laughs. "The tambourine, are you kidding me? It was like, here, give the stupid girl these dumb instruments." It is her beautiful ballad, "I Still Miss Someone," however, that remains Malone's favorite part of the show. "When Jarrod [Emick] is in it, at the end he comes in, sort of as a ghost, someone who's moved on, and he sings some harmony with me, it makes the whole thing make sense," she says. "It's just stunningly beautiful. I hope we get to record a cast album."

The Miracle of Cash: Far from her Rocky Mountain home, Malone is thrilled to have the chance to stand on the Barrymore stage in Ring of Fire eight times a week. "I'm at the best place in the universe!" she gushes. "It's a miracle!"

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