Theatre Review: Virtual production of ‘Barbara’s Blue Kitchen’ at Aurora Theatre

Chloe Kay (Photos by Casey Gardner)

It takes more than a pandemic to keep the fabulous invalid (theatre) down; Aurora Theatre is producing a country fried musical called “Barbara’s Blue Kitchen,” with book, music, and lyrics by Lori Fischer. The show is part of Aurora’s “Our Stage Onscreen Digital Series” project and runs through Oct. 10. To reserve a seat (so to speak) you must contact the theatre’s website at Auroratheatre.com.

The theatre’s “A” team is here: Justin Anderson is directing, with musical direction by Ann-Carol Pence. These two have helmed some of Atlanta’s most memorable shows in recent years.

The show features a remarkable performance by Chloe Kay (a WatersEdge Records recording artist) who plays Barbara Jean, the diner’s owner; but she also plays a warm-hearted nurse, an elderly widow, a mother of three boys, and an insecure young waitress named Jeanette. Ms. Kay plays seven roles in all.

There is also a local radio DJ, played very well by Skyler Brown. These two constitute the entire cast. By the way, both actors are alumni of Aurora Theatre’s Apprentice Company.

You may wonder how Barbara Jean can play scenes with characters whom she is also playing! For that, we bow to the digital wizardry of film (about which I am largely ignorant). But I’ve read that Ms. Kay filmed the other characters’ tracks first. And then, Barbara must react seamlessly to each person she plays. It’s really quite a tour de force.

Skyler Brown and Chloe Kay

Speaking of Ms. Kay, she possesses a fine singing voice which projects warmth and sincerity easily. Even though Mr. Brown also sings well and is accomplished, the show belongs to Barbara Jean and her “fellow actors.”

The setting is Watertown, a small town close to Nashville. So we have a picture (only a teensy bit hackneyed) of small town Southern life filled with gentle comedy (“That woman is a living testament to what happens when you exclude vegetables from your diet,” says Barbara Jean).

Director Anderson has wisely said that the power of community is the heart of the play; considering the times we’re going through, that statement is more profound than you may realize. Mr. Anderson further says, “We’re maintaining the pulse of a community that definitely needs connection.” I think the community he speaks of could be the entire country.

The play’s music ranges easily from folk to country to contemporary. The lyrics provide a lot of fun: “Love can make the blind man see”; “I feel love comin’ through”; “Waiting for the tree to fall”; “Crazy is the other side of being afraid.”

The scenic design is by Jon Sandmaier; lighting and sound design by Daniel Pope.

We have Skyler Brown on guitar; Hayden Rowe on violin; and Maurice Figgins on bass. The music is smooth and professional, recorded expertly with the vocals.

Would you like to know the special of the day? It’s a genuine look into the hearts of everyday people.

All you have to do is purchase a ticket for the best seat in the house; running time is about 75 minutes. All the information you need is found on Aurora’s website. I would suggest you support theatre in Atlanta and have a good time. “Barbara’s Blue Kitchen” is waiting.

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