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BWW Review: STEEL MAGNOLIAS at Cherry Creek Theatre is a Slice of Comfort

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Cherry Creek’s mounting of such a classic is par for the course under the helm of Artistic Director Susie Snodgrass.

BWW Review: STEEL MAGNOLIAS at Cherry Creek Theatre is a Slice of Comfort

We all have those movies that we cling to for comfort. Movies, or even musical albums, that we could watch or listen to on repeat forever. For many of my friends, Steel Magnolias provides that sense of comfort. The iconic work as both a stage production and feature film have long impacted storytelling, and this show is the latest production to grace the stage of Cherry Creek Theatre.

Under the direction of Tara Falk, the cast and crew of this production work cohesively from start to finish. The ensemble cast of six blend their skills together to create one solid work of art, though they all leave room for their individual performances. As the first to enter, Devon James as Truvy sets the pace and tone of the show nicely as she welcomes the other players into her iconic home hair salon. James is comfortable in the role, though I will caution her to stay aware not to give every line of dialogue the same pattern of speech. There were moments where the highs and lows in the voice became predictable. Not a huge issue, just something to keep in mind. As Annelle, Shannon Altner gives really nice work to the role with a strong character arc from beginning to end. The character arguably goes through the biggest changes, in part through her finding religion, and Altner takes you through the motions with ease. Martha Herman Pardee in the role of Clairee fit like hand in glove. She gave the perfect balance of pomp and tenderness to the late Mayor's wife. Tracy Shaffer as Ouiser, the real comic relief of the show, milks every moment as the stubborn and bitter neighbor. Shaffer demonstrates these qualities while still allowing Ouiser to wear her heart on her sleeve.

As the young bride-turned-mother, Shelby, Erika Mori is consistent and stubborn throughout the show - a performance that would make Julia Roberts proud. I think, however, there can be a greater sense of urgency during her climactic moment in the first scene. Diabetic shocks are a scary thing to witness, something I have experienced first hand, and I think Mori can lend more to the moment to create a touch more extremity to the moment, while also being careful to still not make the moment one of caricature. In the role of the grand matriarch herself, Suzanne Nepi as M'Lynn debatably has the hardest job, given the iconic nature of Sally Field's performance in the movie. Rest assured, Nepi is not only a clear veteran on the stage, she gives the most original performance in her role compared to the rest of the ensemble. Nepi masterfully steps in as the mother who straddles the line between giving too much and not giving enough to her daughter who demands independence, though at a cost.

The creative elements of the show were really tight, with Tara Falk at the head. Her blocking was simple, yet effective for the stage, especially with consideration to COVID-19 safety protocols. Sound Design by Max Silverman and Lighting Design by Patrick Hinchliffe proved themselves to not just be complementary, but integral to the production, truly setting the scenes. Though, it would have been all for naught if not for the foundational work of Scenic Designer Tina Anderson, complemented only by Lindsay Sullivan's Prop Design.

Cherry Creek's mounting of such a classic is par for the course under the helm of Artistic Director Susie Snodgrass. They have a way with breathing new life into older works, reminding their audiences that some stories are timeless. Steel Magnolias runs through October 24, 2021. For tickets, visit www.cherrycreektheatre.org/production/steel-magnolias/.


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