Steel Magnolias is Beautifully Performed

Friday October 20, 06
by Christopher Beard,

In spite of a few technical difficulties, the cast and crew of "Steel Magnolias" at Slidell Little Theatre proved what a great community theater we have in St. Tammany.  I, for one, feel very fortunate for this.

If you are unfamiliar with the classic "Steel Magnolias," the story takes place in Truvy's hair salon in make-believe Chinquapin, Louisiana, where all the ladies who are "anybody" come to have their hair done.   Upon entering the theater, my first impression was one of awe.  The set, brilliantly designed by Fred Martinez, is a very true-to-life beauty parlor, complete with detail, including running water.  Together, the set and characters pull the audience into the action on stage, making one feel as if they are actually sitting in the salon.

Extremely cleverly written by Robert Harling, "Steel Magnolias" is a beautifully told story of the friendship and bonds between the ladies who frequent Truvy’s.  The main events revolve around Shelby (the prettiest girl in town) who is preparing for her wedding.  Filled with hilarious repartee, the play moves toward tragedy when, in the second act, the lively and spunky Shelby (who is a diabetic) risks pregnancy and forfeits her life. The realization of mortality affects the others, but also draws on the underlying strength and love which give the play, and its characters, the special quality to make them truly touching, funny and marvelously amiable company through good times and bad.

One of the things that makes the show so enjoyable is the fact that we all know people like those in the story.  Director Janet Talley has assembled a cast with great talent that portrays the characters each with unique personalities and in a perfect way.  Talley’s blocking and direction are right on.  Most impressive is the realistic hairstyling that takes place as the audience laughs and enjoys the antics on stage.

Helped by her eager new assistant, Annelle (a soft spoken, timid and caring young woman new to town), the outspoken, wise-cracking Truvy dispenses shampoos and free advice to the rich but eccentric, Ouiser, ("I'm not crazy, I've just been in a bad mood for forty years"); the town’s former first lady and true Southern Belle, Miss Clairee; and the level-headed, local social leader, M'Lynn, the mother of the bride.  

Enough cannot be said about the talent of the ensemble of actresses that filled these roles.  Denise Centola (Shelby), Deborah Ann Jack (Annelle), Kathy Mahl (M’lynn), Grace Marshall (Truvy), Judy Rushton (Clairee) and Julie Vorus (Ousier) are all superb.  I was especially impressed with the acting ability of Centola.  I hope to see each of these ladies on stage again in the future.