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Sunday, October 16, 2005

De Niro was thrown from this stage: A night at The Barn Dinner Theater

Last night Lisa and I joined my parents and sister (it's her birthday tomorrow, Happy Birthday Anita!) for dinner at a place that I've long been curious about but 'til now have never been to: The Barn Dinner Theater in Greensboro. The Barn, founded in 1962, is the oldest and longest-running dinner theater in America, and the last remaining from a chain that used to be 27 Barns from New York to Texas. Back in its early days the performance's cast not only acted on stage, they were the waiters and waitresses. I've known for many years already that Robert De Niro acted at The Barn for awhile (imagine that: Robert De Niro being your waiter for the evening!). Well some of the management told me last night that De Niro was also fired from The Barn one night, right in the middle of a show. Mickey Rooney and a few other well-known performers have also done gigs at The Barn, so this place has seen a little bit of history.

How it works is that they open the doors to the dining room at 6 p.m., and a host escorts your party to your table. From there you help yourself to three buffet tables of really good gourmet cooking: I'm serious, the food at this place is delicious. Tastes like real home-made cooking like Granny used to make. I had the chicken (which wasn't fried and wasn't barbecued but it was really spicy, I've no idea how they cooked it) and barbecue (also spicy), green beans and corn, some kind of baked apples and a couple of biscuits, and for desert a slice of chocolate cake. Every bit of dinner was well worth the trip alone. But then came the show...

About 7:15 they started clearing the buffet tables away, and The Barn's emcee came out and did a round of birthdays (including Anita's), anniversaries, and one young lady who was proposed to by her boyfriend in front of everyone. After he finished the stage descended from the ceiling with a couple of props (two chairs) and the show was on. It was a two-act musical called Band of Angels, about the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville and all the ghosts that haunt it. So there were characters like Hank Williams, Minnie Pearl, Marty Robbins, Johnny Cash and wife June, Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynette, Ernie Tubb and Waylon Jennings, among others, talking and singing to this country rube named Buster who managed to get inside Ryman from the rain. I thought it was a pretty good tribute to not only these country performers who have gone on already, but to country and bluegrass music as an artform. All told, it was a wonderful evening spent with family in a really unique establishment. Band of Angels is playing at The Barn until November 22nd (it got held over for an extended engagement because it's proven to be so popular) so call The Barn Dinner Theater and make reservations now: it's well worth the trip. Or come later when they do shows (some even from Broadway) like Annie and Lend Me a Tenor. Heartily recommended. I give this place five stars.


Chad said...

Glad to hear you enjoyed your experience at the Barn. Hope Anita was surprised. It's been about 10 years since I went to the Barn, but I didn't know DeNiro performed there. That's cool.

Chris Knight said...

I first heard about De Niro being there around the same time we were in high school (it was mentioned in an article in the News & Record about the place). Yeah, Anita was surprised but she admitted that she thought this "might" be a place where we were taking her. I'd love to go again sometime: the food is great and the show was awesome.

Anonymous said...

A great trivia to ponder. I wish that life i wax part of the bar when it was famous. I think that this is one of the best things that heppened before. I can't imagine anything else.