Rob Reviews "Steel Magnolias"
I was sixteen years old when “Steel Magnolias” went from an off-Broadway play to the big screen and worked at the local movie theater in my city where it played. This was really the first exposure I had to the power of the “chick flick,” which was chock full of celebrity names and did a TON of business. It would be a few years before I would actually see it because of the stigma that came with it, and I can actually say that I enjoyed it as much as a early twenties kind of guy could have enjoyed the story of six women in mid-80s Chinquapin Parish, Louisiana whose lives intertwine through a hair salon. As a man of a certain age now, I got to check it out as a stage production at the beautiful Wyly Theater Center where it is playing through October 21st.
Mirroring the stage production (as it should), this entire cast is only the six women and takes place all within the Truvy Jones’ (Liz Mikel) beauty shop. There is no transitions of set pieces (and very few transitions at all), so the reliance on the cast to carry everything is on a higher level, and all six of these ladies are more than up to the task. From the mother/daughter dynamic of Tiana Kay Blair and Christie Vela as Shelby Eatenton-Latchierie and M’Lynn Eatenton respectively to the “grumpy old ladies” of Ouizer Boudreaux and Clairee Belcher played by Sally Nyusten Vahel (the Scrooge from the Wyly’s “A Christmas Carol” two years ago) and Nance Williamson to the newbie in Ana Hagedorn’s Annelle Dupuy-Desoto and all of the combinations therein, this cast delivers in a way that would make the actresses that made the roles famous before them stand up and take notice. There are some nice nods to those performances that made the audience cheer in more than one moment, but not in a way that took us out of those moments.
And with a script that is THIS dialog heavy, it is pulled off in a way that gives the feeling more of voyeurism than of observation. There is a laser focus by this cast that makes it so organic that I was able to completely forget about the fourth wall and enjoy what was going on in front of me. The acts are split exactly down the middle at an hour a piece with a fifteen minute intermission, but it certainly did not feel like it. I enjoyed thoroughly and completely enjoyed this production and highly recommend it as a great night at the theater for any and every fan of not only the material but the genre and theater in general.