Rosanne Cash: Black Cadillac in Concert

Rosanne Cash never tried to bask in the reflected glow of her legendary father -- nor did she shun his legacy. But when Johnny Cash and both Rosanne's stepmother, June Carter Cash, and her birth mother, Vivian, died over an 18-month period, she looked to document both a musical legend and a series of personal relationships.

With:
Musicians: Rosanne Cash, John Leventhal, Larry Campbell, Zev Katz, Catherine Russell, Shawn Pelton.

Rosanne Cash never tried to bask in the reflected glow of her legendary father — nor did she shun his legacy. But when Johnny Cash and both Rosanne’s stepmother, June Carter Cash, and her birth mother, Vivian, died over an 18-month period, the singer-songwriter looked to document both a musical legend and a series of personal relationships in an album titled “Black Cadillac.”

While she was no doubt gratified by the reception that disc received upon its release last year, Rosanne Cash was apparently convinced she hadn’t told the entire story — which she took a great deal further at this multimedia performance’s world premiere.

“Black Cadillac in Concert” isn’t a mere reprise of the album that shares its name. The three-segment perf, which reached well past Cash pater’s life history — clear back, in fact, to the clan’s 17th-century immigration from Scotland — used narration and video elements to tell tales both highly personal and unmistakably universal.

“Radio Operator,” a deceptively lilting offering with a country-pop sheen that belies its simmering anger, falls squarely into the former category, what with its you-are-there depiction of the courtship between the singer’s parents. “Burn Down This Town,” on the other hand, painted a vividly bleak landscape with its keening Appalachian melody.

Cash dipped into her father’s catalog sparingly over the course of the perf — most effectively on a closing version of “Big River.” She also dusted off a passel of songs culled from a list of country essentials that he compiled for her early on; the highlight was an appropriately desolate take on Don Gibson’s “Sea of Heartbreak.”

The production wasn’t without its flaws. At times, the narration took on an overly dewy tone — one better suited to soundtrack a tour of a Cash family equivalent to Graceland — and the more abstract visuals proved a bit distracting. But by the show’s latter stages — particularly the closing “What Did You Dream This Time?” segment — the parts were integrated marvelously.

That assimilation — and the lengths to which Cash goes to achieve it — ensures that, unlike the laundry list of jukebox musicals it might resemble at first glance, “Black Cadillac in Concert” leaves an aud thinking about more than just which tunes to whistle on the way home.

Rosanne Cash: Black Cadillac in Concert

St. Ann's Warehouse; 650 seats; $40 top

Production: Presented by Arts at St. Ann's. Reviewed May 4, 2006.

Cast: Musicians: Rosanne Cash, John Leventhal, Larry Campbell, Zev Katz, Catherine Russell, Shawn Pelton.

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