BWW Review: STEEL MAGNOLIAS at Taproot Theatre Will Give You All the Feels and More.

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BWW Review: STEEL MAGNOLIAS at Taproot Theatre Will Give You All the Feels and More.

Arika Matoba, Melanie Hampton, Casi Pruitt
and Merlette Buchanan in Steel Magnolias at
Taproot Theatre. Photo by Robert Wade.

STEEL MAGNOLIAS at Taproot Theatre will give all the feels and more. It is a heartfelt story of enduring friendships: of living, loving, and letting go. With little fuss or fluff, the show owes its appeal to the witty dialogue delivered with zest. Unafraid to feel the hurt of loss, the show reminds us that we are never just one thing, but can feel many complex emotions all at the same time.

Six Louisiana women are bound by love and friendship and endless hairspray. They gather regularly at Truvy's hair salon to freshen up their hairdos and to catch up on the latest news from each other and the community. They cheer and support each other, advise and counsel each other, but also rib and tease each other. The women of STEEL MAGNOLIAS each have their own struggles but always find time to offer a shoulder to each other. When one of their own, M'Lynn, suffers an unimaginable loss, they are there to help her pick up the pieces and find her way. The remind us that in addition to romantic love and familial love, a life best lived must also include a special circle of friends and communal love. For the Seattle community, we have Third Place Books to remind us that in addition to work and home, we need another place to belong, a third place. For these women, Truvy's salon is their third place, and often the first place they go when they are in need of a helping hand.

The cast is tight-knit and has obvious chemistry. I especially appreciated Marlette Buchanan's interpretation of Clairee. For a role that often shows a woman that had been living in the shadow of her husband, Buchanan showed a strong woman who had been devoted to her husband. Cas Pruitt brought such true southern sass and the best accent on the stage. I'm an Alabama girl, so I'm rather particular about my southern accents, and hers was excellent. Melanie Hampton's portrayal of Shelby was a refreshing look at a young woman who knows what she likes and what she wants without the usual ditziness that accompanies that character. As a fellow fire-baton twirler, I really appreciate that. Kim Morris (Ouiser) and April Poland (M'Lynn) anchor the show's heart and humor. The big surprise was how delightfully perfect Arika Matoba fit into the group as Annelle. Her comedic timing and delivery brought this side character to center stage. Together they were compelling and even therapeutic.

The stage adaptation presents some challenges by limiting all scenes to Truvy's salon. Scenic design by Mark Lund provided multiple areas for activity and included some fabulous details of time period hair fashion across the salon's wall. Additionally the thrust stage only adds to the challenges of staging such a show. Director Marianne Savell kept the action moving and the few necessary set changes were paced perfectly to allow for some very quick costume changes by the cast. Occasionally the lower level and separated sections of the salon caused some forced movement that was distracting and seemed inauthentic. However by the second act, the movement seemed more settled and in tune with the action. Lighting by Amanda Sweger was subtle and stealthy, reflecting the mood and gently increasing it. Overall the production was a wonderful retelling of a favorite story.

Individual struggles, love, and heartbreak. These are the things that fill our days and shape our lives. The good times are better and the hard times are easier when we share them with friends. Just like it's name and the women in the show, STEEL MAGNOLIAS, is strong and sweet.

STEEL MAGNOLIAS is playing at the Taproot Theatre through February 29th. For more information or tickets, visit www.taproottheatre.org.




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From This Author Kelly Rogers Flynt