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BWW Review: STEEL MAGNOLIAS at Hale Centre Theatre

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Now showing through July 27 at the Hale Centre Theatre

BWW Review: STEEL MAGNOLIAS at Hale Centre Theatre

BWW Review: Steel Magnolias

There is no doubt that Steel Magnolias is chock full of charm. The audience gets a tiny glimpse into the lives of six dynamic women who struggle with everyday life and find the joy in the journey. Set in Truvy's hair salon, Steel Magnolias alternates between humor, sadness, frustration, and the true meaning of friendship.

The set is homey and period perfect. Steel Magnolias is set during the years of 1986 to 1988. Because the Hale Theater is set in the round, the audience gets to walk through the set on the way to their seats. A keen eye will notice that not a detail was spared on the set; magazines, hair products, wicker furniture, bright tile, and hair style pictures hung on the walls create the perfect atmosphere. McKenna Carpenter, Brian Daily, and Joshua Lindblom obviously took great care to ensure the set would transport the audience to 1986.

The costumes are also spot on. Designed by Tia Hawkes and Corrin Dietlein, each member of the cast has a unique style that fits the character and the time period. The accessories, including purses, shoes, and earrings, bring a nostalgia to the proceedings. The wigs are especially excellent. You should expect nothing less for a show set in a hair salon and Cambrian James certainly delivers.

The direction, by Jere Van Patten, is stellar. Van Patten understands how to use the space to tell the story without letting the set consume the actors. There was not a corner of the set that was not part of the action and everything flowed so naturally. Even when all six women were on stage at the same time, the stage never felt crowded. Directing in the round presents unique challenges, but Van Patten uses the angles to his advantage to allow the audience to experience the play and not just watch it.

As Truvy Jones, Amy Jo Halliday is spunky, sincere, gossipy, audacious, and endearing. She carries her energy in every line she delivers and brings a joy to Truvy that would make Dolly proud. Kamie Tierce plays Annelle, the new girl in town "with a past". Tierce is the perfect amount of timid and unassuming that helps the audience connect with Annelle. Tierce has excellent comedic timing which scored her some of the biggest laughs of the evening.

Miss Clairee Belcher is played by Kandyce Hughes. Hughes plays the part of a dignified, Southern woman with poise and class. As Ouiser Boudreaux, Beth Anne Johnson manages the transition between snarky and sincere to remind the audience why Ouiser is one of the best written characters in literature.

To round out this cast, Meg Farnsworth plays Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie and Linsey Maxson plays her mother, M'Lynn Eatenton. Farnsworth and Maxson display the complexity of a mother-daughter relationship with all the ups and downs, frustrations, stubbornness, understanding, and love. Farnsworth nails Shelby's frailty, while demonstrating the unfailing hope that her life will be as happy as she decides it will be. Maxson is brave, funny, and natural. M'Lynn experiences almost every emotion through the course of this play and Maxson always understands the assignment.

This story is heartbreaking, heartwarming, and hilarious. For fans of the movie, even though the play came first, you will get to hear your favorite lines and remember why the good ol' days were so good. Steel Magnolias runs through July 27 at the Hale Centre Theatre. Tickets can be purchased here.

PC: Nick Woodward-Shaw


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