SteelMagnolias Annelle

Theatre at the Center’s “Steel Magnolias” is an Emotional Roller Coaster

**** Highly Recommended **** Theatre at the Center’s production of “Steel Magnolias” is an emotional roller coaster, heartwarming humorous ups followed by heart-wrenching downs. In other words, it made me laugh, it made me cry, I loved it! Kudos to Linda Fortunato and the women in the cast for an outstanding production. 4 Spotlights

Playwright Robert Harling based “Steel Magnolias”, which opened off-Broadway in 1987, on his experiences when his sister passed away. His title refers to Southern women, who seem to be as delicate as magnolias, but actually are tough as steel.

The smash-hit 1989 movie starring Julia Roberts, Sally Fields, Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine Daryl Hannah, Olympia Dukakis and Shirley MacLaine remains one of my favorite films.

For those few people who have never seen “Steel Magnolias”, the story is divided into four parts – Shelby’s wedding, Shelby’s pregnancy, Shelby’s kidney transplant and the poignant final scene.

One Saturday morning, Truvy (Heidi Kettenring), owner of the best beauty shop in Chinquapin Parish, Louisiana, tells her new employee, Annelle (Myesah-Tiara), that the shop was closed because she’ll be busy getting ready for Shelby’s wedding.

Although Claree (Jeannie Affelder), Ouiser (Joslyn Yvonne Jones) and M’Lynn (Cory Goodrich) will all be in, M’Lynn’s daughter, Shelby (Landree Fleming), is the bride! Her father keeps shooting at the birds in the magnolia tree they share with next-door neighbor, Ouiser, which is making all the ladies crazy. Shelby’s signature color is pink.

Although the story is wrapped around Shelby, the other ladies are real people too. At first M’Lynn appears to be an over protective mother hovering over her daughter – and she is – but when the chips are down, she shows incredible strength.

Claree, Chinquapin Parish’s # one football fan, is lonely since her husband died, so she buys the local radio station. Ouiser loves being the neighborhood Grinch, yelling about the magnolia tree which has been denuded of blossoms just in time for the wedding. Claree and Ouiser would do anything for each other, including each offering the other as a punching bag when M’Lynn has a meltdown. Affelder and Jones display great comedic timing, trading insults with aplomb.

Truvy’s husband doesn’t have a job and spends all of his time on the couch watching TV. In fact, she says, the last time he did anything was when he enclosed the carport so she could open a beauty shop and support him. Her two sons both grown and gone too, so she offers Annelle, who was abandoned by her dead-beat husband, her son’s tiny garage apartment, at least until she gets back on her feet. According to Truvy, Annelle went to a weekend retreat and came back a born-again Christian. Somehow, Annelle never rang true to me; maybe because she was just too saccharine sweet.

Kudos to Scenic Designer Greg Pinsoneault on the authentic looking house frontage, now the interior of the beauty shop. The beauty equipment wasn’t arranged for efficiency, but it was all there, right down to the running water.
By the way, at the opening night reception, General Manager, Richard Friedman, said that when TATC first produced “Steel Magnolias”, back in the ‘90s, Heidi Kettenring played Shelby.

“Steel Magnolias” runs through March 25th at Theatre at the Center, 1040 Ridge Road, Munster. Parking is free. Running time is roughly 2 hours, with an intermission. Performances are Wednesdays and Thursdays at 2:00 pm; Fridays at 7:30 pm; Saturdays at 3:00 and 7:30 pm; Sundays at 2:30 pm; with select Thursday and Sunday night performances. Tickets range from $42-$46. FYI (219) 836-3255 or www.theatreatthecenter.com.

Read all of my reviews at www.spotlightonlake.com.