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'Ring of Fire' puts spark in Curtain Up!

The 24th edition of "Curtain Up!," the gala that officially opens Buffalo's theater season, is a day away.

But the Theatre District and the local economy already are reaping the benefits of Studio Arena Theatre's world premiere production of "Ring of Fire," the Broadway-bound musical about the life and songs of Johnny Cash.

More than 100 artists, technicians, producers and designers came to town with the show, which opened with a preview performance Saturday and runs through Oct. 9.

Hotel bookings, restaurant meals and other activities associated with the production are helping the downtown business sector shake off the summer doldrums, said Ken Neufeld, Studio Arena executive director.

Add Studio Arena's outlay for advertising, printing, construction materials and other commodities, and what the projected audience of 15,000 pays for tickets, parking and restaurant meals, and "Ring of Fire" translates into "a very significant economic impact," Neufeld said.

Local tourism officials intend to capitalize on the buzz surrounding the revue, which Tony Award-winning director Richard Maltby Jr. constructed around 38 Cash songs, including "This Thing Called Love," "Ring of Fire," "I Walk the Line," "I've Been Everywhere" and "The Man in Black."

The world premiere is generating national attention, which presents "a unique opportunity to publicize Buffalo as a visitor destination," said Richard Geiger, president of the Buffalo Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau.

"Curtain Up!" opens Friday with a gala dinner on stage at Shea's Performing Arts Center, followed by performances on more than a dozen area stages and a free community celebration with entertainment along Main Street in the Theatre District.

The event is sponsored by the Theatre District Association of Western New York and M&T Bank.

e-mail: tbuckham@buffnews.com

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