Review: BARBARA’S BLUE KITCHEN Dishes Out Comfort Food for the Soul

by Jody Tuso-Key — Managing Editor 9/29/2020

ATLANTA – In this era of Covid, avid theater patrons have been starved for content. Local theaters have had to re-imagine how to deliver the high quality entertainment Atlanta theater goers have taken for granted all these years. There’s a longing from the theaters and performers to create, and a craving for audiences to get back into the seats and enjoy some live entertainment. While we’re not completely there yet, Aurora Theatre has been inching toward offering experiences in it’s space which adhere to social distancing guidelines. From now until October 4th they have cooked up a one-act musical, BARBARA’S BLUE KITCHEN which is available to stream in the comfort of your home. If you miss Aurora as much as I do, you’ll find this show to be a real treat.

With books, music, and lyrics originally written and performed by Lori Fischer, this show is meant for a cast of 2 performers. This is a tall order for Chloe Kay, who plays Barbara Jean along with an entire cast of characters that patronize her kitchen. Chloe’s performance is delightful, and she does an excellent job serving up each character with their own personality and flair. Skylar Brown, another AppCo alum, plays DJ Dickie Brian Hull of local radio station WATR (the setting is Watertown, Tennessee) as well as the kitchen’s cook. Brown’s picks the guitar and provides the DJ’s original music on the kitchen’s radio. His rich vocals add continuity and comedic elements throughout the production. The music is down-home country and provides narrative for the stories being told in the diner.

The show opens to a typical day in the kitchen, where Barbara Jean enters and turns on the radio to hear DJ Dickie singing the jingle for Barbara’s Blue Kitchen. Barbara takes over, singing along with the catchy song and bringing the audience along into her world. During this eventful day in her diner, we meet seven characters that make up her corner of small town America. Jeanette is Barbara’s pen-pal who turns up to wait tables in the kitchen and listen to Barbara’s lamentations about her philandering boyfriend, Lombardo. Melissa is Barbara Jean’s younger sister–a cantankerous divorcee with three kids in tow, she’s especially hard on her son, Tommie Lee. His only crime is his resemblance to his daddy. Tessie is an elderly customer from the Happiness Home across the street who recently lost her love and is sick of the home’s sub-par food offerings. Mrs. Morris is a middle-aged nurse who comes to the diner each night to visit with Tommie Lee and wishes to see the pyramids. In addition to playing Barbara Jean, Chloe plays all these characters — including Lombardo, a southern Italian casanova who aspires to become a country singer. While she is impressive in each role, I especially enjoyed her as Tommie Lee, who sings about carrying his daddy’s picture in his shoe. Her mannerisms and vocals captured the essence of an eight-year-old very convincingly.

Chloe Kay and Skylar Brown serve up a great performance.

It was so wonderful to see a professionally filmed production with a full set, live music, expert lighting and sound and costumes in the Aurora studio stage again. While I would have loved to have been able to see this live in the theater, the professional quality of this recording on my 60 inch television almost made me feel like I was back in one of my happy places again. I found it easy to stream the video from the Vimeo platform from my phone to my television, and the video and audio quality were excellent. Kudos to director Justin Anderson, music director Ann-Carol Pence, and the entire production team for providing us with some much needed comfort food for the soul.

A behind the scenes look at BARBARA’S BLUE KITCHEN

For the price of a nice lunch for two, you can support Aurora during this pandemic and make your reservations for only $30 to stream BARBARA’S BLUE KITCHEN at https://www.auroratheatre.com/productions-and-programs/view/barbaras-blue-kitchen/

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