Kitchen Radio

Written on July 5th, 2014

Being Tied to the Kitchen

At the season opener of the Blyth Festival, the audience was asked to stand and sing O Canada.  It is a nice touch, a proud moment.  In fact, unless we go to a hockey game, when do most of us have the opportunity to sing O Canada?

I was happily singing along, until we came to the line “in all thy sons command”, and I winced a bit.  “When are they going to get around to changing that line?’ I thought.  Every few years, there is talk about updating that line – “in all of us command” is usually the wording being touted.  But it has yet to be done officially, and until the government makes that change, they are leaving out half the population.  As a Canadian woman, it bothers me.

So, sitting in the theatre watching Kitchen Radio, my concern about O Canada was validated and reinforced.  Yes, this show is a sweet and heartwarming comedy, but it is also a story about the way women were treated in the 1960s.  And yes, we’ve come a long way since then, but words still do matter.

Credit goes to new Artistic Director Marion de Vries for bringing her musical to the stage.  It traces the lives of five women – Eleanor who is tied to the kitchen by her demanding, drinking husband; Sophie, a fun-loving beautician running her own mobile business; Helen, the straight-laced housewife whose only job is to socialize and make her husband look good; Angela, Helen’s young daughter who’s a little rebellious, and Maggie, a native woman who has taken over her late husband’s farm and trucking business.

Right away we discover it’s a man’s world – Sophie can’t get a business loan to buy a building to house her beauty shop – she is forced to visit her customers’ homes.  Maggie can’t get a loan without a husband or father to sign.  She points out that she has a double whammy – she’s an Indian, and they can’t get loans at all.

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All of the five actors in those roles go through a transition in their characters.  Sometimes the changes create comedy, sometimes there’s a tear in your eye.

Marion Day as the prim and proper church-lady Helen is a standout for her ability to belt out the jazzy “I hate that Woman”.  Rebecca Auerbach makes us love Sophie for her free spirit and positive attitude.  Nicole Joy-Fraser is very natural in her presentation of Maggie, and wins us over.  Her lament for her late husband is touching and emotional.

Elizabeth Kalles as Eleanor takes us on a journey from a tired, nervous housewife to a self-assured singer.  And special notice should be taken of Emily Lukasik – still a musical theatre student, she is excellent in the role of Angela.  Her acting and singing ability, along with her fiddle playing talent, will have us watching for her in the future.

The two husbands, Jason Chesworth (John) and Greg Gale (Dan) both do double duty, as actors and musicians.

Some of the songs are a bit repetitive – we don’t need to hear a chorus repeated to further the plot.  But overall, they are a good representation of the thoughts of the characters.

Today being a “foodie” is very trendy.  Knowing how to cook is a popular skill for both men and women.  But in the 1960s, most men didn’t know how to boil water, and many women were tied to the kitchen stove with only a radio for companionship. It made for many unhappy relationships.  This musical might just serve to remind today’s 20-somethings how far women have come.

But there is still a ways to go before workplace position and salary equality is reached. The message is powerful, and we want parity for all our sons – and daughters.

Photo: Elizabeth Kalles, Emily Lukasik, Nicole Joy-Fraser, Rebecca Auerbach. Photo by Terry Manzo.

Kitchen Radio continues at the Blyth Festival in repertoire until August 9.  Call 519-523-9300 / 1-877-862-5984 or go to www.blythfestival.com for tickets.

Kitchen Radio
By Marion de Vries
Music & Lyrics by Marion de Vries and David Archibald
Based on an original story idea by Jennifer Triemstra-Johnston
Directed by Kelli Fox
Musical direction by David Archibald
Performed by David Archibald, Rebecca Auerbach, Jason Chesworth, Marion Day, Greg Gale, Nicole Joy-Fraser, Elizabeth Kalles, Emily Lukasik.
Blyth Festival, Blyth
June 25 to August 9, 2014
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

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