Theater Review: Steel Magnolias

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Studio Tenn's production of Steel Magnolias, Oct. 30 - Nov. 9, will surely tickle you pink!

… a tremendous theatrical experience!

Studio Tenn presents:
Steel Magnolias (Oct. 30 – Nov. 9; Ages 10 and older)
Jamison Hall at The Factory
230 Franklin Road, Franklin
888-664-6362 •
Show times: Thu – Fri 7 p.m., Sat 2 and 7 p.m., Sun 2 p.m.
Tickets: $47.50 – $57.50

Bravo to Studio Tenn for its humorous and heartfelt production of Robert Harling’s beloved Steel Magnolias! It’s the second installment of the theater company’s fifth season, and it’s one that I love more than my luggage.

Harling’s successful play from 1987 might be most familiar to people by way of the 1989 film adaptation starring Dolly Parton, Sally Field, Julia Roberts, Olympia Dukakis, Shirley MacLaine and Daryl Hannah. While there’s a lot to be said for the movie, both the comedy and drama are more powerful on stage with everything happening in the southern comfort of a Louisiana beauty shop.

Director Matt Logan’s cast assembly is stellar. It includes Marguerite Lowell (Truvy), Evelyn O’Neal Brush (Annelle), Emily Landham (Shelby), Nan Gurley (Oiuser), Shelean Newman (M’Lynn) and Ruth Cordell (Clairee). These dynamic actresses give the audience a tremendous theatrical experience!

Each actress magnificently performs her respective role, delivering comical quips, sarcastic wit and a lot of charm along the way. Steel Magnolias‘ script is peppered with some of the greatest one-liners in theater history, and each lady on stage delivers them without a hitch. The cast seamlessly brings these delicate-as-magnolias-yet-tough-as-steel women to endearing life, brilliantly showcasing the importance of laughter through tears.

Newman delivers a stand-out performance as M’Lynn, primarily in regard to her ultimate meltdown after Shelby’s death. It’s emotionally gripping and real with grit that enables the misty-eyed audience to tap into the painful depths of unthinkable loss. In a show rife with laughs, it takes a masterful talent to pull the audience’s emotional strings in a succinct manner, and Newman does so in a gripping way.

Lowell’s centerpiece role as the gossip-queen, beauty-shop owner Truvy is fun to experience as is Landham’s effervescent, youthful charm as Shelby. Cordell captures Clairee’s genteel southern charm with a deft amount of smart-aleck influence, and Gurley serves up plenty of laughs as the cantankerous curmudgeon, Ouiser Boudreaux. Gurley also does an excellent job of revealing Ouiser’s compassionate heart that’s seemingly been buried by her being in “a very bad mood for 40 years.”

O’Neal Brush’s performance as the sheepish and neurotic Annelle is spectacular. I’ve seen several productions of Steel Magnolias by other companies, and this character is oftentimes downplayed. Director Logan obviously understands the importance of Annelle to the story arc, and O’Neal Brush successfully portrays her in a manner never before seen on a regional theater stage.

Logan’s costumes perfectly fit the show’s time period, and his exquisite set design is full of vibrant detail, right down to the hair follicles on the beauty shop floor that Truvy and Annelle sweep up during the scenes.

A great show for families to enjoy together or as a date night with your significant other, Studio Tenn’s production of Steel Magnolias will surely tickle you pink, even in shades of blush and bashful!

Chad Young is the managing editor and arts/entertainment editor for this publication.

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