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Review: STEEL MAGNOLIAS at Drury Lane Theatre Oakbrook Terrace, IL

Production runs through August 7

Review: STEEL MAGNOLIAS at Drury Lane Theatre Oakbrook Terrace, IL

Walking into Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace, the set jumps out immediately. There is no curtain. I had to walk up to the lip of the stage to look at it. Angela Weber Miller's design is perfection. A can of Tab, the turquoise couch and many other touches evoking a different time.

During these times, seeing Steel Magnolias is like a soothing balm. These characters are a loving group of women trying to deal with "the ordinary instant". There are no male actors in the stage production and the creative team is all female. The story is filled with strength, love and support. Robert Harling's script is based upon his own family experience with the passing of his sister. He wanted her child to know her story.

Elizabeth Ledo's Truvy is someone we would like as our friend. Her warmth and concern are constant. She has just hired new assistant Annelle (Lillian Castillo) who loves what she does. The remaining characters arrive because they need to have their hair done for the wedding of Shelby (Cordelia Dewdiney in her Drury Lane debut). Her mother M'Lynn (Amy J. Carle) looking out for her daughter due to her diabetes. Susie McMonagle as the widowed, elegant Clairee adds the right mix of humor and sass. Then there's Ouiser (Janet Ulrich Brooks). She's sharp tongued but there is no denying she loves these women.

The audience thoroughly enjoyed this production. The script is filled with humor. There were references - the Bette Davis film Dark Victory - that I know some people did not understand.

The characters these women brought to life were never looked down upon or played over the top. In the last Act, M'Lynn's breakdown over Shelby is heartbreaking. There were tears by many. It is a bravura performance.

Johanna Mckenzie Miller (Drury Lane debut - please do more) direction is stellar. I don't' know where Cassy Schillo (props design) found everything but I'm glad she did! Jessica Pabst (costumes), Lindsey Lyddan (lighting), Sarah Ramos (sound), Emily Young (wigs and hair), Sammi Grant (dialect coach) and Juli Hrovat-Walker (stage manager) wove this story together seamlessly. Drury Lane has staged a wonderful production. In the end, it's about friends, support, strength and love. It will make you think about your own life and the friends who are there for you. This story makes us realize how lucky we are to have those friends (and to being one of those friends). Hopefully one or two of them will be sitting next to you.

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