By Micah Campbell
I am not a pretty crier. My eyes get all puffy and I begin to do this weird “I’m not crying” blinking to try to reduce the tears that fall from my eyes. When I received two tickets to see Steel Magnolias at the CenterPoint Legacy Theater, I knew very few people I could expose myself to with the inevitable tears, puffy eyes and sniffling because, if you have seen any version of Steel Magnolias, tears are going to come.
Robert Harling’s Steel Magnolias opened in 1987 at the WPA Theater in New York and went on to become a movie. The play is based on Harling’s experience with the death of his sister. It is a dramedy set in Louisiana’s Chinquapin parish in Truvy’s beauty parlor. The story starts with Shelby and discussions of her impending wedding while she gets her hair done. Shelby has an episode due to her Type 1 diabetes and the story begins, covering the span of the next three years. Though it deals a lot with Shelby and her medical conditions, the focus is on this small group of six women, Truvy, Annelle, Clairee, Shelby, M’Lynn and Ouiser, and their strength and beauty while they face all that life has to offer them including the tragedies.
Director Janet Cook brings to life this beautiful story in the Leishman Performance Hall with the lights opening on Truvy’s parlor. Brian Hanh (producer and set designer) has created a salon parlor that feels familiar and adds to draw the audience into this world of laughter and sorrow. With the assistance of Laura Crossett (stage manager), Jordan Fowler with lighting design, sound designer Jay Clark, and Costume designer Jennie Richardson, Truvy’s parlor feels like home.
Truvy, played by Carissa Klitgaard, sits in a parlor chair getting her hair done by the nervous, new girl in town, Annelle, played by Kate Williams. Klitgaard and Williams had some big shoes to fill because these parts have been played by the likes of Dolly Parton and Daryl Hannah. As soon as Klitgaard opened her mouth and the southern belle drawl spilled out, she owned the part and the stage was set with the mousey, nervous Williams. The two begin to prepare the parlor for the day after Truvy hires Annelle.
Clairee, brought to life by Kathy Cappellucci, walks in in her pearls and Jackie Onassis-like dress suit and the audience is slowly introduce to the rainbow of personalities who by the end start to feel like friends. Shelby, played by Jessica Love, and her mother M’Lynn, played by Mims Zimmerman, walk in, bringing the central story and most of the drama of Type 1 Diabetes and the complications that come with it..
Finally, when Ouiser, perfectly portrayed by Hazel Rowe, storms in and brings a little slice of crazy and a lot of funny, the beautiful story and cast is knit together. This wonderfully assembled cast begins to share laughter, love and tragedy with welcome arms and an open seat in one of the parlor chairs or under one of the hair dryers.
Make sure you bring tissues or have some available as this is bound to bring you to tears. CenterPoint Theater’s production of Steel Magnolias is perfect for everyone whether for date night, girl’s night out, or just on your own. Go early, buy some concessions, and grab a seat because all seating is General Admission. All tickets are $15. Please not that children under three and babes I arms are not permitted. Steel Magnolias is now playing at Centerpoint Legacy Theatre on Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays with the last showing on July 1st.