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Ring of Fire

The cast of "Ring of Fire," at the Lincoln Community Playhouse (from left) Noah Gose, Tim Tidball, Chloe Gose, Stephen Cantarero and Brian Foley.

Prior to last week's opening weekend of "Ring of Fire," the last time Noah Gose had been on stage as an actor was as a middle schooler, when he played Augustus Gloop in a Haymarker Theatre production of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

"I remember that I wore a fat suit and ate a lot of chocolate," said the 21-year-old junior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "I was always nervous about forgetting my lines."

So understand what he's saying: He's not an actor. Neither is his wife Chloe or any of the other musicians hand-picked to perform the Lincoln Community Playhouse's homage to the late Johnny Cash.

Noah and Chloe are part of The Wildwoods, a band that has been playing regularly in Lincoln and in the region for the last three years.

But when they were approached about the playhouse production during the summer there was some interest.

"I've never really acted before," said 21-year-old Chloe. "We were under the impression that we going to be the pit band for the show, but at the first rehearsal, they started handing out scripts and I said, 'What's going on here? We're in the cast? We're on the stage?'"

They weren't just cast members. Noah plays Johnny Cash and Chloe has the role of June Carter, his country-singing inspiration and love interest.

"That was the whole idea," said Morrie Enders, executive director of the playhouse, who deferred to musical director Lucas Kellison in choosing the cast. "We wanted real musicians who could play the music and say a few lines."

Mission accomplished.

The show, which drew rave reviews in its opening weekend and will play over the next two weekends -- resuming again on Friday -- can be described as an annotated concert.

"I'd say 95% of the show is music," Enders said. "There isn't a lot of dialogue. There are sections that are little pieces of dialogue between the songs. The musicians have to act a little while performing the songs."

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That's been a kick for the young married couple, who met as eighth graders and would graduate from Pius X High School.

"Most of the scenes we have together are flirty, which is fun," Chloe said. "And we sing some long songs to each other, too."

The Wildwoods have established themselves in Lincoln's music scene. They are regular performers at Zoo Bar, Duffy's and 1867 Bar, as well as at out-of-town venues in places like Waterloo and Hastings.

"We really didn't take it seriously until we got to college," said Chloe, who enrolled in UNL as biology major. ""I always considered it a hobby, but going that first year of college without it made me really miss it."

The two quit school after a year to focus on the band, their music and their relationship. They toured the United States and played some small clubs before coming back to Lincoln.

They enrolled in school after a year -- this time as music majors. 

"We both wanted degrees," she said. "We knew they were important for the future."

These days, they go to class until 4 p.m. each day. They teach music until about 9 p.m. and then rehearse for "Ring of Fire" each night for about three hours.

"This is been a great way to end our day," she said. "We've met a lot of great people and it's been a lot of fun for us."

It's also been educational, Noah Gose said.

"The good part about it is we knew a lot of the songs already," said Noah, who has learned a lot more about Cash's life and his music as a cast member. "It's been really interesting to look into the creativity of Johnny Cash. There were some real complex aspects to his music."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7391 or psangimino@journalstar.com. On Twitter @psangimino.

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