By Sam Mooney
You could be forgiven for asking whether The Man in Black: A Tribute to Johnny Cash – a Mirvish production – is theatre. After all isn’t it just another tribute band? Yes and no. Yes, it’s theatre. By my definition anyway. And, no, this isn’t just another tribute band. They’re terrific. Shawn Barker is Johnny Cash. He bears a striking resemblance to a young Cash and, as well as sounding like him, moves like him.
Think of the show as a musical with very few words or as a discography on the stage.
Rather than trying to reproduce an actual concert we’re treated to a what if concert. The stories that Barker as Cash tells aren’t necessarily the things Johnny Cash actually said but are things that he could have said.
Before the show started George, my show companion, asked me if I’d ever seen Cash perform live. I hadn’t. According to his father George had, as a toddler sitting on his father’s lap at a concert at the Ex. He was hard pressed to compare performances though. He didn’t remember the first show.
Shawn Barker sounds like Johnny Cash; close your eyes and you’ll think that it’s Cash singing. The band is terrific, very talented musicians. Band-leader Mike Burns is fabulous on his Fender. One quibble, I wish there was biographical information about the band and back-up singers on the program.
Rather than having a June Carter character there are 2 back-up singers who each perform a couple of duets as Carter to Barker’s Cash. Barker and Blair Irwin sizzled when they sang Long Legged Guitar Pickin’ Man. Michelle Berting’s solo later in the show was stunning.
The music covers Cash’s career and runs the gamut from Rockabilly to Gospel, Folk to Rock. The audience loved it. So did we.
– The Man in Black: A Tribute to Johnny Cash is playing at the Panasonic Theatre (651 Yonge Street) until February 27, 2011
– Performances are at 8 pm Tuesday through Saturday with matinee performances at 2 pm on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday
– Tickets prices range from $25.00 to $60.00
– Tickets are available at the Panasonic box office, by phone at 416.872.1212 or online.