Review: ’Steel Magnolias’ is more about friendship than flowersYou may have seen the movie or the last Phipps production of “Steel Magnolias” but the message bears repeating, if only as a reminder of what friends are for.
By: Meg Heaton, Hudson Star-Observer
You may have seen the movie or the last Phipps production of “Steel Magnolias” but the message bears repeating, if only as a reminder of what friends are for.
It was a timely ticket for me this weekend—the opening of the new production of “Steel Magnolias “at The Phipps Center. On Friday night, I was together with my own bunch of “buds” to celebrate our friend Mary Ann’s 50th wedding anniversary, an endurance run that can only be truly marked by good friends making fun of everything they can think of when it comes to marriage and the rest of life.
That might have been why the give and take between the six southern belles of the play rang so true, even if some of the language and attitudes seemed a bit dated. Director Kasey Jean Tunell notes that a steel magnolia “has a handle on all situations, can handle the good with the bad and always has hope in the face of adversity.”
Tunell says she has magnolias of her own and that could account for how she so expertly chose her cast. With the exception of Mary Amel, everyone has appeared at The Phipps before, but more important, they made audience believe they had been friends for life.
Truvy played by Charlotte Kodner was the perfect boss, friend and beauty consultant. Clara Ashwood made the slightly odd Annelle loveable and Mariah Christensen gave Shelby depth beyond that of a blushing bride in love with pink.
Amel played the irascible Ousier (I’m glad to learn how that name is actually spelled), a woman with a hard edge but a soft center and Ruth Mandsager gave us all something familiar in M’Lynn—unappreciated mother, long suffering wife and grief-stricken friend. And my favorite magnolia was wonderfully played Diana Swanson who as Clairee came through time and time again with some of the best one-liners ever written down. That includes one I continue to use on a regular basis—“If you haven’t got anything nice to say, come sit next to me.”
Supporting Tunell and her cast was Sarah Leigh who created the wonderful beauty parlor set that thankfully didn’t include anything remotely spa-like, costume designer Rita Kozak and technical director Mark Koski. Special mention should also be made of dialect coach David Rummel who got the accents just right and prop hunters Maxine Irons with help from Swanson and Amel who found some really wonderful treasures.
“Steel Magnolias” is part of The Phipps 25th anniversary Season of Favorites. It runs weekends through May 3. Performances are Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m., Sundays, 2 p.m. For tickets call (715)386-8409 or purchase online at www.ThePhipps.org.