Steel Magnolias is such an iconic movie that it is difficult not to compare the stage version to it. The show at the Phoenix Stage is beautifully acted by six mostly mature ladies, most of whom have appeared on this very stage before and one of whom makes her sixth appearance. Many of the classic lines from the movie are intact, as are all of the important lead characters. The men are mentioned, but never appear onstage and, frankly, are never missed. For this is a show for strong women and these ladies under the direction of Kathy Cook never disappoint. There is a lot of laughter in this show about the tight friendship among the ladies, but the end might cause some tearing up by the audience along with the actresses.
The set is a convincing old-fashioned beauty parlour that was dressed by Ed Bassett, Kathy Cook, Pat Cook and Lori Poulin and it gives the audience plenty to look at. The "magnolias" are dressed perfectly to character, especially Helen Adams' no-nonsense "Ouser." The wigs that some of the actresses sport have to stay put because someone is always having their hair done.
Chrissy Flynn, with her hair teased to the max, plays the Dolly Parton part of "Truvy Jones" in a less cartoonish manner, but is sweet and funny. Jamie Weisberg, last seen as the "Skunk" in The Adventures of Peter Cottontail, shows her acting stripes here in the role of "Annelle." Her southern accent is thick and her demeanor is hovering, but she finds her voice by the end of the play. "Clairee" is played by the wonderful Val Vitalo with a dry wit. "Shelby" (the Julia Roberts role) is played by the young Anna McClintock, who happens to be a hairdresser in real life and is appearing in her first role at the Phoenix. Her character is the young lady who struggles with health issues throughout the play.
Tori Richnavsky plays Shelby's hovering mother "M'Lynn," in her first role at the Phoenix, and does a fine job competing with Sally Fields. The aforementioned Ms. Adams is properly mean, cranky and funny as "Ouiser." Also a costumer, she recently designed for at the Warner Theatre and is currently working on sewing for the little girls in the upcoming Annie at the Warner.
The director told me that she could have just let these fine actress take the script and have at it, but I am sure that she had a little something to do with the tightness of the show. You'll laugh, you'll cry, but go see these wonderful women before it is too late.