Steel Magnolias is the bittersweet story of six women who gather under the dryers at Truvy’s Beauty Salon to share laughter, gossip, recipes and beauty secrets in a small American Southern town. When tragedy strikes, they face it with courage and strength, supporting each other through thick and thin. This hilarious and poignant stage play is a heart warming portrait of friendship, love and loyalty.
Truvy played by Hannah Marks is a larger than life character who thrives on the gossip of the small town; she is perfectly cast and has control of the stage whenever she speaks.
Clairee, a prickly character played by Stevie Parker was superb in her role and very convincing as the unlikely best friend of Ouiser; they had a hilarious double act of banter going on which was very funny to watch. Ouiser played by Di Buck had a terrific role and she commanded the stage whenever she walked on; I only had to look at her and I wanted to giggle, she did not have to speak, her facial expressions told the story.
Then there is M’Lynn, played by Sarah Short and her daughter, the beautiful but breakable Shelby (Donna West), who is getting married the same day that the play begins. Sarah Short and Donna West offer up an incredibly real and endearing mother-daughter pair. Shelby is a diabetic, which has a large impact on her life, and M’Lynn is bordering on being overbearing, but her intentions are always good and come from a place of desperate concern for Shelby’s health. The two disagree often, about little things and more seriously Shelby’s ability to take care of herself, but the loving devotion of the two is never in question.
Shelby is doted on by the other women, and Donna instantly captures the audience’s heart, embodying Shelby’s beauty, upbeat character, and kindness. Throughout the play, Shelby battles to reconcile what she wants for her future and the limitations of her body.
Annelle, played by Shana Cooper, is Truvy’s brand-new assistant and comes packed with a mysterious history. Although Shana was at risk of being overshadowed by the wealth of experience and expertise of the other more experienced actors on the stage, I think she showed potential with some very good moments on stage and this will be a learning curve for her.
Steel Magnolias is an emotional journey with many dramatic and poignant scenes. At the top of the show, Shelby has a hypoglycaemic attack, which not only demonstrates the severity of her disease but shows how tight the group of women are as they all remain calm and rush to help M’Lynn tend to her daughter.
The overall production was excellent, and a few minor suggestions would be some extra attention to the phone calls, there does not seem to be time enough for the person at the other end to speak, making it not believable and perhaps find something for Annelle to do with her hands, especially in the first half. However, these are very minor and fixable issues and did not distract from the performance.