World’s Greatest Johnny Cash Experience at the WWII Museum’s Stage Door Canteen through Jan. 30
Fans of Johnny Cash ought to head to the WWII Museum this weekend as, if you close your eyes, you’ll think that the “The Man in Black” has come back from beyond.
That’s because Terry Lee Goffee, with his rumbly bass-baritone and twang to his singing voice, sounds incredibly similar to the legendary performer. As he goes through over two dozen of the singer’s great songs in 80 minutes, he conjures up a world of inconsistent love, a portrait of a bygone country, and a transfixing narrative of the common man.
I was always aware of Cash, but not until I saw him at the House of Blues here in 1995 did I gain a deep appreciation of him; even in his 60s he still delivered a powerful, swaggering show.
Yet, while I know I Walk the Line and Ring of Fire well enough to hum along, watching Goffee’s tribute show I discovered the lyricism of Cash’s storytelling ability in songs that combine a keen-eyed view of America with catchy tunes that capture the heartbeat of our land.
From his taunting a cheating lover in Cry! Cry! Cry! to the optimism of Get Rhythm to Five Feet High and Rising’s tale of the 1937 Mississippi flood (which New Orleanians can certainly identify with), Cash’s words paint vivid three-minute pictures which Goffee’s clear diction allows an audience to savor.
Cash’s other songs range from the nobly tragic The Long Black Veil to his cover of Nine Inch Nail’s nihilistic Hurt to Shel Silverstein’s witty send-up of toxic masculinity A Boy Named Sue. With these and other numbers, Cash’s canon has aged well.
Wearing a black outfit (natch) with America’s Great Seal embroidered on the top of either side, Goffee’s appearance is more reminiscent of Cash than precisely doppelgänger-esque which might be just as well as at that HoB appearance it looked like life had taken a toll on him (tho he still put on a memorable show).
Goffee focuses on Cash’s music though he does provide some biographical details and backgrounds on the various songs; fortunately, unlike some bio-shows, this never feels merely like a Wikipedia page come to life. If Cash’s classic line “I spent 20 years in the Air Force from 1950 to 1954” gets a reliable laugh, Goffee had some good ad libs of his own when an audience member responded to his inquiry as to whether anyone was from Minnesota; apparently, rarely does anyone reply affirmatively. Naturally, he ends each song with a “Thank you, thank you very much” à la Cash.
While Goffee plays his guitar with expertise, often just on its neck, he does use backing tracks to summon up the sound of a full band. This might bother some, not me. On Orange Blossom Special, however, he duplicated Cash’s use of two harmonicas to fine effect to recreate the sound of a train engine’s whistle.
Goffee’s script for World’s Greatest Johnny Cash Experience (as per the WWII Museum website; on Goffee’s website it’s dubbed The “World’s Premier” Johnny Cash Tribute) becomes a mite disorienting only because, at times, he seems to be playing Cash, while at others he seems to be himself impersonating Cash, the difference between “I” and “he” pronouns. This could actually add an interesting level of introspective examination were it more fully developed but, as it is, the audience just goes with the not-too-difficult-to-follow flow, especially when Goffee introduces his assistant and wife of 24 years Kay who handles some of the technical duties.
With his amiable personality, Goffee seems like a really nice guy. Which may not be entirely appropriate for Cash’s outlaw image. As with most bio-shows, including such recent and current Broadway ones about Donna Summer, Cher and Tina Turner, it’s virtually impossible to fully capture the high wattage personalities and unique talents of these singular, charismatic performers.
Still, this tribute to Cash makes for a most worthy experience. And since the Man in Black is unlikely to be returning, Terry Lee Goffee provides the next best thing.
[For tickets and more information, go to https://www.nationalww2museum.org/programs/worlds-greatest-johnny-cash-experience-terry-lee-goffee]
Tango Fire at the Mahalia Jackson Theater
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m a sucker for all things tango.
That said, the last tango company I saw that the New Orleans Ballet Association (NOBA) presented, Unión Tanguera in 2015, left something to be desired. As I wrote then, when they “stuck to tango, the superbly done moves were deeply satisfying. But the rest of this one-act exploration of relationships was unfocused with superficial contemporary choreography.”
No such concerns clouded my unalloyed enjoyment of Tango Fire, seen recently at the Mahalia Jackson Theater, NOBA’s first presentation in two years, since Covid shut things down. Launching their new US tour in New Orleans, this company from Buenos Aires provided two hours of supremely stylish, elegant dance.
Accompanied by an outstanding quartet, four couples glided and torpedoed their way across the stage, singly and in various combinations, in over twenty numbers. What I especially appreciated about Tango Fire was that the company assumes that its audience has some familiarity with tango and so they didn’t do a pedantic introduction about how tango started in bordellos and originally was considered a dance of the lower classes. Rather, they jumped right in and every number was a knockout.
German Cornejo was billed as “Director of Choreography” but, as is traditional in the world of Argentine tango, the individual couples in the company choreographed their own solos with Cornejo refining the steps. Those solos with their fancy, scissor-like footwork, had me writing such comments as “Amazing” and “Wowza” in my program.
Even more fabulous, group dances featured synchronized tangoing, the precision of which astonished with its crisp moves. Cornejo’s own choreographic talents came out in those numbers and especially in Violentango which started as three couples and then morphed into two trios–one MFM, one FMF–each with slightly differently power dynamics.
If Cornejo and his longtime partner Gisela Galeassi were first among equals, the other three terrific couples demonstrated why they, too, have won multiple tango championships and have toured around the world.
In Watashi, by the Japanese composer Taro Hakase, Ezequiel Lopez & Camila Alegre were moody and seductive. Sexy and sensual Julio Seffino & Carla Dominguez, in Quejas de Bandoneón, reminded me of Morticia and Gomez Addams without the camp. And Esteban Simon & Marilu Leopardi performed with suavity the one tune known to most theater afficionados, El Escondite de Hernando or “Hernando’s Hideaway” from The Pajama Game.
If Cornejo’s excellent choreography was at its most imaginative with its use of chairs in Verano Porteño, his inclusion of fans, a hat and an umbrella as props added nice touches to other numbers. In fact, I might’ve liked to have seen him push the boundaries of tango even further as I had when I saw a remarkable program in Buenos Aires that had dancers partnering with a soccer ball and a construction set. But that, I guess, will have to wait for another time and another program.
For now, I’ll just mention that Tango Fire’s sophisticated and chic costumes, different for nearly every number, avoided the Vegas tackiness some tango programs offer. And the band (Pablo Motta (piano), Clemente Carrascal (bandoneón), Gemma Scalia (violin), Facundo Benavidez (contrabass)) played throughout the evening with gorgeous, melting romanticism.
At the start of the evening, NOBA’s Executive Director Jenny R. Hamilton spoke about a variety of worthy programs that have kept NOBA involved with the community here over the past two years and I applaud them for that. For NOBA’s triumphant return to programming with Tango Fire, however, I give them a most well-deserved standing ovation.
[NOBA’s season continues with Ballet Hispánico launching their national tour with the debut of Doña Perón: The Rise and Fall of a Diva, a new, full-length ballet (March 12) and American Ballet Theatre bringing its masterpiece Don Quixote to New Orleans for its first appearance here in nearly half a century (May 14 and 15). For tickets and more information, go to https://nobadance.com/our-performances/upcoming-performances/