Scott Moreau: Walkin’ the Line

Scott Moreau

Walkin’ the Line

Arizona Broadway Theatre Encore Room, Peoria, AZ, January 29, 2021

Reviewed by Lynn Timmons Edwards

The socially distanced and masked audience was greeted by Kiel Klaphake, Executive Producer of Arizona Broadway Theatre, who was grateful to those who braved the indoor experience for opening night 2021. Walkin’ the Line was conceived by Scott Moreau, veteran of the National Broadway tour of Million Dollar Quartet. He has reprised the role of Johnny Cash at theaters throughout the country, but he has created a new cabaret/concert for ABT with the assistance of JR Alexander and Seth Reines.

Against a projection of the skyline of Nashville he took the stage, which was decorated with vintage instruments and gave the feel of a music studio back in the 20th century. Moreau makes a great first impression—handsome in black, confident with his persona and guitar; most importantly, he has the ability to hit the low notes. If you are a fan of Cash and his music, I highly recommend that you get your tickets now as the seating is limited due to Covid-19 protocols. The 90-minute show is long on music (24 songs) and brief on story, but the stories were sometimes funny and mostly enlightening. Moreau made the choice to speak only in the first person, so unlike cabaret that lets you into the soul of the singer, Moreau just gave us the working Cash—how his childhood, his colleagues, and his families informed his song writing and recording. There were no stories of drugs, dark days, or redemption.
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When he talked about his beginning at Sun Records and his move to Columbia, it was as if it was another day at the office, not the heart-breaking drama depicted in Million Dollar Quartet. “Don’t Take Your Guns to Town” was the song that Cash saved for his first Columbia Recording in 1958.

After a rousing opening of “Folsom Prison Blues” Moreau performed Cash’s first Sun Record: “Hey, Porter!” (written with Luther Perkins and Marshall Grant) and the B side “Cry, Cry, Cry.” A song he wrote based on a childhood memory of the 1937 Great Flood, “Five Feet High and Rising,” was a memorable moment. The cabaret was not without the hits, including “Walk the Line,” which Cash wrote for his first wife Vivian, and “Ring of Fire” written by his second wife June Carter Cash and Merle Kilgore. Also included were the train songs “Rock Island Line” by Clarence Wilson and “The Wreck of the Old 97” by Henry Clay Work, David Graves, and George and Henry Whitter.” These songs were an ode to his father who used to ride the rails during the Depression from town to town to find work. My theater companion whispered, “My grandfather did that,” which really brought it all home. “Rock Island” really tested Moreau’s articulation and after he finished, he said “that song is faster than you can kiss a duck.” I would also swear that the melody of M.T.A. by the Kingston Trio borrowed heavily from Cash’s “Wreck.”

Two songs that could have been funnier had they been sung just a little slower were “A Boy Named Sue” and “Cocaine Blues.” The show was very well crafted in the way that it left the most poignant and real 11 o’clock songs for the end. “Sunday Morning Coming Down” was heartfelt; it was done with no introduction but was followed by his declaration of his affection for the writer Kris Kristofferson. They met when Kristofferson was a janitor at Columbia trying to make it as a songwriter in Nashville. Perhaps in the one moment in which Cash morphed into Moreau, he said that just recently Kristofferson had announced he was retiring from public performance.

Cash paid tribute to veterans, calling upon anyone in the audience to identify as such and thanking them for their service. Then he sang the sad “Ballad of Ira Hayes” by Peter La Farge about a Pima Indian made famous as one of the six WWII marines who raised the American flag at Iwo Jima.
Hayes was a hero from Arizona but died in his thirties of alcohol poisoning. “Man In Black” is a song that Cash wrote because he claimed he got the same question in every interview, “Why do you wear black?
” I admit that I cried during “Old Ragged Flag,” which is a non-political spoken song Cash wrote in 1974 that reminds us of our history and is just as relevant today. Moreau and his band—Denise Minter on keyboard, Derek Engler on drums, Dan Stotz on bass, and an especially talented Jared Mancuso on guitar—wrapped up the show with “Ghost Riders in the Sky” by Stanley Davis Jones. Moreau quickly returned for an encore “I’ve Been Everywhere,” once again showing off his ability to sing really fast.
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Since we can no longer see Johnny Cash live, Walkin’ the Line just might be the next best thing.

Lynn Timmons Edwards

Lynn writes and performs themed cabaret shows based on the songs of the Great American Songbook throughout Arizona. She has had three short plays produced in the Theatre Artists Studio Festival of Summer Shorts and is working on a full length play, "Fairy," based on the life of Mary Russell Ferrell Colton, a founder of the Museum of Northern Arizona. In addition to writing and singing, Lynn plays bridge and tennis and enjoys traveling with her husband and artistic companion, Bob. Born in Ohio, Lynn is a graduate of Denison University (BA), Arizona State University (MPA) and has lived in Arizona since 1977.