He topped Nashville charts, conquered New York publishing and is the subject of a new movie.

He topped Nashville charts, conquered New York publishing and is the subject of a new movie. Now the late Johnny Cash will reach Broadway in February with the opening of "Ring of Fire," a musical featuring the classic songs of the legend known as "The Man in Black."

Producers said the musical, which features 38 of Cash's songs, would begin performances in New York in February, directed by Richard Maltby, who won a Tony Award for conceiving and directing the Fats Waller musical "Ain't Misbehavin'."

The show follows a string of so-called "jukebox musicals" using an artist's song catalog, and comes within months of a biopic about the country legend, "Walk the Line," which was a hit at the Toronto Film Festival this month.

After a career that spanned five decades, Cash died in 2003, just a few months after the death of his wife, country singer June Carter Cash. He told his own story -- from his youth as the son of an Arkansas sharecropper, to touring with Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis and his descent into drug addiction -- in the book "Cash: The Autobiography," published in 1997.

The musical, which is playing a pre-Broadway engagement in Buffalo, N.Y., this month, features all the hits from "I Walk the Line" to "The Man in Black" and "Country Boy."

No single actor sings all Cash's songs or plays him. "The persona, the voice, are unduplicatable, and the very best we could achieve would be a poor imitation," Maltby said, explaining the decision not to present Cash himself on stage.

In the program notes for the Buffalo production, he said Cash, who had rejected several previous ideas for a musical, had given his approval for the project shortly before he died.

Maltby said that while it is not Cash's life story, what emerges is "an almost mythic American tale -- of growing up in simple, dirt-poor surroundings in the heartland of America, leaving home, traveling on wings of music, finding love, misadventure, success, faith, redemption and the love of a good woman."


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