Make an appointment for laughter and tears and have a good hair day!
If a picture truly is worth a thousand words, I could save us both time and just post a picture from the final scene of the woman sitting next to me. The image of a tear running down the side of her face is a fitting review of Steel Magnolias a heartbreaking, yet very enjoyable production that’s playing at The Loft Theatre through November 29. However, since photography isn’t allowed in the theatre I’ll go ahead and write. I might not reach a thousand words, but trust me in that the show is worth more words than are in the dictionary.
With just the picture, it would have been unfair to leave out the phenomenal group of women in the cast. They each totally embody their character while leading the audience on the emotional journey through laughter, joy, sadness and everything in between. Without ever leaving the beauty shop, they are still able to cover a lot of ground. If those of us watching didn’t care about the characters, Steel Magnolias would have little to offer, but the cast causes us to become emotionally invested in them.
In the role of Truvy, Christine Brunner measures up with Dolly Parton in…acting ability. She more than fills the part that Parton played in the hit 1989 film with a perfect mix of southern charm, sass, and beauty. There is no single star in Steel Magnolias as everyone in the ensemble cast shares the spotlight pretty evenly. Things do get a lot more fun though when Ouiser (Caitlin Larsen) appears, as she certainly raises the energy level. A real spitfire, Ouiser enters spewing hatred as she’s disturbed by some recent activity and the effect it’s having on her dog. Ouiser is a loveable character, but nobody will wish she was their grandmother.
I thought Steel Magnolias was a movie everyone, especially women, have seen, but several people seated around us were not familiar with it. They must think that blush and bashful are the names of dwarves rather than shades of pink. Anyway, for those who don’t know the story I don’t want to give away the ending, even though Stevie Wonder can see it coming. (That joke is old, it’s time for a new famous blind person.) It’s safe to say that a tragedy unites the women together and brings out the true value of friendship.
It’s during the final scene that The Loft began to resemble a doctor’s office during cold and flu season with all of the sniffles, but Carolyn Popp as M’Lynn is the major cause. She spreads a major case of weeping from her powerhouse performance of a grieving mother. Popp’s performance has the strength of a hurricane and the ability to make a grown man (or at least me) have watery eyes. I won’t even blame my allergies, as Popp deserves all of the credit. She captures all the pain and remorse of anyone who has ever lost a loved one. She at first tries to hold it together, but when M’Lynn breaks down, it’s acting in its finest form. My allergies are starting to flare up again, just from thinking about it.
Like the final one, every scene is made even better by the surrounding cast. At the opening, Annelle (Maretta Zilic) is the new girl, it’s her first day at the salon, and by the end she is one the girls. To Zilic’s credit, you can see the progression of the character. The widow of the town’s mayor, Clairee, is played by Patricia Linhart, who delivers some of the best lines and biggest laughs, at a time when laughter was needed the most.
Last but not least is Shelby (Julia Gesiler), who’s at the heart of it all. Shelby is someone you want to root for and Gesiler makes that easy with her smile and sweet nature. With health issues, even Shelby’s greatest of joys comes with hardships, and Gesiler finds the perfect balance for her emotions.
Steel Magnolias is a reflection of real life, there isn’t always happy endings. There are times when we have to mourn, but we have those that are close to lean on for support. A line in the show is, ‘Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion,’ and it’s a perfect description of how the audience will feel at the conclusion. Bring some Kleenex. Steel Magnolias continues through Nov. 29.
by Robert Harling
November 5 – 29, 2015
The sassy hit of our 1988-1989 season finally returns!
Many things beside hair get done at Truvy’s hair salon, and that’s why it is the place to go in Chinquapin Parish, Louisiana. Gossip, revelations and witty Southern banter flow like refreshing sweet tea on a hot summer day. The opinionated Truvy and her new assistant, Annelle, play host to unlikely friends Ouiser and Clairee, the respectable and sociable M’Lynn and her beautiful daughter, Shelby. As the women come face to face with difficult times, they are brought together through strength and love.
Congratulations to Melissa A! Tickets are in the mail to see Steel Magnolias! Enjoy the show!
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