BWW Review: STEEL MAGNOLIAS at Florida Rep is Heartwarming and Hilarious!October 17, 2018
Florida Repertory Theatre’s production of STEEL MAGNOLIAS, directed by Jason Parrish, kicks off their first Historic Arcade Theatre show of the 2018-2019 season with a hilarious, clever, and bittersweet bang.
STEEL MAGNOLIAS is about a group of women who rely on each other not only for gossip and fun (and hair styling) but also for comfort through hard times in their lives. I loved seeing how they came together and supported one another; it was encouraging and heartwarming to see how they did everything they could to take care of each other.
The cast of STEEL MAGNOLIAS includes Florida Rep ensemble members Rachel Burttram, Patricia Idlette, and Sara Morsey, along with Alison Campbell, Betsy Helmer, and Amy Tribbey. I thoroughly enjoyed the bond these six women shared on this stage. They showed strength and resilience through their characters, as well as vulnerability and wit. They all worked very well together bringing this production to life as a whole, cohesive story.
Truvy Jones, the owner of the beauty shop the show takes places in, was played by Rachel Burttram. I was impressed with not only her phenomenal acting skills but also how well she was able to style hair while on stage; I’m sure this is in part thanks to James Farley/J. Bernard Studio, the Hair Consultant for this production, but Burttram executed it excellently. I also very much enjoyed the vibrancy and personality she brought to Truvy.
Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie was played by Alison Campbell, and M’Lynn Eatenton by Amy Tribbey. They had a very realistic mother/daughter connection, and this made particular moments in the show even more impactful. Campbell shows Shelby’s hopeful spirit very apparently, and I appreciated the bright positivity she brought to the story. M’Lynn’s protectiveness over Shelby was also very easy to see; I felt that Tribbey’s emotional portrayal of M’Lynn was spectacular.
Sara Morsey played the snarky Ouiser Boudreaux, Betsy Helmer played Annelle Dupuy-Desoto, an employee at the beauty shop, and Patricia Idlette played Clairee Belcher, the former town first lady. Each of these women had truly fantastic comedic timing. Morsey’s Ouiser was very straightforward and a bit cynical, and this humor added a lot to the show. Helmer’s Annelle evolved a lot throughout the show, and though she perhaps was a more introverted character than the rest of the ladies (some of the time), she had many funny and smart moments, and also some more emotional ones. Idlette’s Clairee was also very quick-witted and humorous; at one moment she had the audience laughing through our tears, and the way she broke the emotional tension at this moment was wonderful.
Though I enjoyed every aspect of this show, the set of STEEL MAGNOLIAS was especially perfect for it. It really felt like the audience was taken back to the late 1980s, to a beauty shop in Louisiana. Jim Hunter did a fantastic job designing this set, and I loved that it really did function as a beauty shop.
Although STEEL MAGNOLIAS is a pretty classic story, I had never seen it before, and I must say, Florida Rep’s production of it left a fantastic first impression. This show has something for everyone, and I absolutely recommend you check it out while it’s playing. Get your tickets quickly, as I’m sure this is bound to be a very popular show.
STEEL MAGNOLIAS is playing in the Historic Arcade Theatre at Florida Rep now through November 7. Performances are Tuesday-Thursday at 7 PM, Friday-Saturday at 8 PM, with 2 PM matinees on Wednesday, Sunday, and selected Saturdays. To buy tickets, you can visit www.floridarep.org, call Florida Rep at 239-332-4488, or stop by the box office at 2268 Bay Street, Fort Myers, FL, 33901.
Photo Credit: Florida Repertory Theatre