BWW Review: STEEL MAGNOLIAS at Alhambra Dinner Theatre
An instant classic upon its publication in 1987, Robert Harling's STEEL MAGNOLIAS is a story that will make you laugh until you cry, and the Alhambra Theatre's current production of this timeless piece is no exception. Running through June 25th, this heartwarming tale features Dawn Wells as Ousier Boudreaux, the crass and sassy neighbor of M'lynn and Drum Eatenton. This well-rounded cast accompanied by an endearing script made for another successful production, directed by longtime Director-Producer Tod Booth.
STEEL MAGNOLIAS takes place in Truvy's Beauty Salon in Chinquapin, Louisianna. These close but unlikely friends share victories, tragedies, and good old Southern drama doused in humor. My favorite line has always been Truvy's explanation in the last scene, "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion". In the two-act production, the audience experiences a wedding, a birth, a death, and lots of quick witted one-liners in between.
Alhambra's intimate performance space requires much from her actors: they are under constant view, no matter which way they face on stage. This requires a different level of commitment from other performance spaces as these six women unfold their highly complex characters throughout the evening. We first meet Truvy, the owner of the salon, and her new employee, Annelle. Truvy, played by Patti Eyler, who is no stranger to this role, was a kind, quick-witted, but endearing interpretation. Lexi Langs takes on the role of Annelle, a quirky young woman with a jaded past. A nearly flawless performance, Langs pulls the audience in with strong physical reactions and hilarious timing.
We are then introduced to Shelby and M'Lynn Eatenton. It is Shelby's wedding day, she wants what she wants, and she wants a lot of pink. Shelby by Rebecca Lea Chisholm, a recent graduate of The American Musical and Dramatic Academy. Shelby's mother, M'Lynn, is portrayed by Lisa Valdini, who is also a fan favorite on the Alhambra stage. I've seen 4 productions of STEEL MAGNOLIAS in the last 12 months, and Valdini still managed to squeak a few tears out of me in her final scene; her performance was elegant and her intentions remained clear. She is a joy to watch on the stage, responsible for the one moment I forgot I was watching a play as I was utterly sucked into the storyline.
The cast is rounded out by Clairee and Ousier, two longtime friends who are eternally giving eachother a hard time. The role of Ouiser is played by Dawn Wells. Wells is best known for her time on GILLIGAN'S ISLAND as Mary Ann, but is also a producer, author, spokesperson, journalist, motivational speaker, teacher, and chairwoman of the Terry Wells Foundation. Wells' entrance was met with sweeping applause, and though she required a script on stage, in hand, throughout the duration of the show, the audience was generous in their reception of her. Unfortunately, even with a script, there were several missed cues, the largest of which fell in the final three minutes of the show. Clairee is played by Cheryl Horne, who made her Alhambra debut in this role. Horne delivers a light-hearted southern charm necessary to Clairee's character, and I hope she graces the Alhambra stage again!
There are four weekends left in the run of STEEL MAGNOLIAS. Tickets are available here. Next up for the Alhambra is ANNIE, which opens the last weekend of June. See you at the theatre!