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BWW Review: STEEL MAGNOLIAS at Gettysburg Community Theatre

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Catch live and streaming performances of this beloved play

BWW Review: STEEL MAGNOLIAS at Gettysburg Community Theatre

Robert Harling's Steel Magnolias opened off-Broadway in 1987. The play is based on Harling's real-life experience of the death of his sister and revolves around the lives of a group of women in Louisiana. Steel Magnolias has been adapted for television and film and is a favorite play for community theatres. This beloved story comes to live on the stage at Gettysburg Community Theatre under the direction of Chad-Alan Carr.

The set is remarkable for such a small space. Technical director and scenic designer Michael Connelly transformed the stage into the interior of a beauty salon complete with salon chairs, a comfortable waiting area, a reception desk, and hair washing station. Small décor changes between scenes take the audience on a journey through the seasons-the Christmas decorations are particularly creative.

One of the first things the audience will notice, aside from the set, is the costumes. The costumes are not only appropriate for the 80s when the play takes place, but also suit the personality of each character perfectly. Between the set and the costumes, this production is aesthetically wonderful and cohesive, with each element supporting and highlighting the women and their story.

Steel Magnolias depends on strong, nuanced performances from every woman on stage. The characters must feel authentic, bringing forth genuine emotion. The cast at Gettysburg Community Theatre rises to the challenge beautifully. Katie Pellegrino is delightful as the awkward Annelle. Her initial scenes with Truvy and meeting the rest of the women remind audiences how difficult it can be to move to a new place while trying to figure out who you are and what your place is in the world. As her character develops, Pellegrino does a great job of infusing her performance with more self-assurance, culminating in an absolutely beautiful moment with M'Lynn in the final scene that will move audiences to tears.

Vanessa Burke takes on the role of salon-owner Truvy. Burke's Truvy is confident, witty, and strong, with a huge heart. Her interactions with the other women on stage draw the audience into the story. Joan Crooks and Patrice Smith are hilarious as Clairee and Ouiser. Crooks has perfect comedic timing throughout the show. Her delivery of Clairee's signature zingers is smooth and natural. Audiences won't be able to keep from laughing. Smith's performance as Ouiser adds a biting, sarcastic wit to the scenes. While her comedic scenes are fun, one of the loveliest scenes for Smith is when the audience gets to see past Ouiser's hard exterior to her soft and warm heart in the final scene as the women are all dealing with Shelby's death.

Real life mother and daughter Erin DiNello and Madison DiNello portray Shelby and M'Lynn. They have wonderful give and take during their humorous argumentative dialogue in the opening scene. As the play progresses, the depth of their love for one another comes out in a variety of ways-M'Lynn's concern over Shelby's pregnancy, the meaningful looks they share when they announce the pending kidney transplant to their friends, and M'Lynn's grief in the final scene. The DiNello women will have audiences laughing and crying throughout the performance.

This ensemble cast really comes together in this production-they lift one another up, making audiences want to be part of their friend circle, getting their colors done with Ouiser, taking in a play with Clairee, gossiping in the salon with Truvy, making Christmas presents with Annelle, shopping for something pink with Shelby, and counseling others with M'Lynn. The final scenes of the show are emotional and breathtaking. Join the women of Chinquapin Parish for in person performances of Steel Magnolias at Gettysburg Community Theatre now through September 19th. Audiences can also enjoy the performance virtually on demand any time September 24-27. Visit www.gettysburgcommunitytheatre.com for tickets to this beloved play.


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