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Review Roundup: Critics Sound Off On THE BALLAD OF JOHNNY AND JUNE at La Jolla Playhouse

What did the critics think of THE BALLAD OF JOHNNY AND JUNE at La Jolla Playhouse? Check out the reviews!

By: Jun. 12, 2024
Review Roundup: Critics Sound Off On THE BALLAD OF JOHNNY AND JUNE at La Jolla Playhouse  Image
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La Jolla Playhouse world-premiere musical, The Ballad of Johnny and June is now on stage! The new musical has book by Robert Cary (SUMMER: The Donna Summer Musical) and Playhouse Director Emeritus and two-time Tony Award winner Des McAnuff (Jersey Boys, The Who’s Tommy), music and lyrics by Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash and others, directed by Des McAnuff.

The production runs in the Mandell Weiss Theatre through July 7, 2024. 

The cast features Christopher Ryan Grant (Broadway’s Million Dollar Quartet) as Johnny Cash, Van Hughes (Broadway’s American Idiot) as John Carter Cash, and Patti Murin (Broadway’s Frozen) as June Carter Cash, along with Maddie Shea Baldwin as Anita, Paula Leggett Chase as Carrie, Drew Wildman Foster as Carl Smith/Jack Cash/Marshall Grant, Gabriella Joy as Vivian, Bart Matthew Shatto as Ray Cash/Sam Phillips/W.S. Holland, and Correy West as Luther Perkins/Rip Nix, and understudies Summer Broyhill, Michael Louis Cusimano, Cody Ingram and Baily Day Sonner.

The creative team includes Ron Melrose, Music Supervisor, Arranger and Orchestrator; Lisa LeMay, Music Director; Byron Easley, Choreographer; Robert Brill, Scenic Designer; Sarafina Bush, Costume Designer; Amanda Zieve, Lighting Designer; Peter Fitzgerald, Sound Designer; Sean Nieuwenhuis, Projection Designer; Alberto “Albee” Alvarado, Wig Designer; Tara Rubin Casting/Spencer Gualdoni, CSA/Jacole Kitchen, Casting; Dean Remington, Stage Manager; and Vanessa Dodgson-Thomas and Marie Jahelka, Assistant Stage Managers.
Country music royalty Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash remain to this day one of the most famous couples of the 20th century. Created with the support of the family and told through the eyes of their son John Carter Cash, The Ballad of Johnny and June covers it all: their childhoods, their 1956 meeting at the Grand Ole Opry, the storied on-stage proposal in 1968, and the soaring highs and whiplash lows of fame, life on the road, addiction, arrests, controversies, marriage, family and devotion. This is a whole-hearted and clear-eyed telling of one of the most iconic love stories in music history, complete with a soundtrack of beloved hits, including I Walk the Line, Ring of Fire, I’ve Been Everywhere and many more.

Check out the reviews below!

ErinMarie Reiter, BroadwayWorld: The show could use some additional editing for both time and clarity.  The first act feels long, and there is a second-act moment with June and John Carter about addiction that is briefly discussed and never resolved, so why add it?  (I searched afterward to see how/if it resolved).  While love and marriage are some core tenets of the story, John Carter’s contemplation of his proposal felt unnecessary. 

Pam Kragen, San Diego Tribune: The new musical has many of the things San Diegans have come to expect from the former Playhouse artistic director — great musicality, a strong singing cast, efficient storytelling and excellent design elements. But it’s missing McAnuff’s greatest signature — the dazzle factor.

Check back for more reviews!


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