Theatre Information

Virginia Rep Theatre Steel Magnolias

By • Jul 16th, 2013 • Category: Reviews, Virginia
Steel Magnolias
Virginia Rep Theatre: (Info) (Web)
Virginia Rep Center – Hanover Tavern, Hanover, VA
Through August 25th
2:30 with intermission
$38-$40/$20 Rush/$10 Students
Reviewed July 13th, 2013

When producing a play such as Steel Magnolias, which has been made into an iconic movie with an all-star cast; it is hard to not face comparisons. However, in Virginia Repertory Theatre’s current production, it does not take the extremely talented cast very long to change the perspective from “she doesn’t look or sound like Sally Field,” to oh did Sally play this part too? The entire cast gives such strong performances and wraps their talent around creating unique takes on the characters rather than trying to simply recreate the familiar theatrical versions.

Virginia Rep is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the founding of Barksdale Theatre at Hanover Tavern with this production of Steel Magnolias. And it is an excellent choice. The play takes place around 1989 in Truvy’s Beauty shop in the small southern town of Chinquapin, Louisiana. It focuses on the bonds of love and friendship between six local women. The shop is not only the heart of the entire play, but the owner, Truvy is the heart of the group of women. As portrayed by Joy Williams, Truvy is an energetic and gossipy southern firecracker.

Her group of friends include bride-to-be Shelby and her domineering mother M’Lynn. Aly Wepplo is warm, youthful, spunky and loveable as Shelby while Kelly Kennedy is steady and controlled as the rock of the group, M’Lynn. Kennedy has a Meredith Baxter-like quality that allows her to be stoic and firm, yet likeable and funny.

Maggie Roop is shy, self-conscious and anxious as Truvy’s new assistant Annelle. Rounding out the group are two of the towns older and wealthier residents, widow and former town first lady, Clairee and local curmudgeon Ouiser. Jacqueline Jones is proper and dignified as Miss Clairee, but it is Cathy Shaffner who steals the show as Ouiser. Her every movement and line seemed to bring down the house with her comedic timing, facial expressions and actions. I am not one who usually laughs out loud, but she had me bursting out in laughter over and over.

The script is filled with one liners and zingers, which all six actresses deliver with great skill. One of my only complaints was that sometimes the actresses did not wait for the laughs to peak; cutting the audience response short. Since this was opening night, I am sure they will learn to listen and respond more to their audience.

All six actresses are also stellar in creating characters who are not caricatures. They are quirky, funny and relatable. This makes the ending even more powerful as you feel their love for one another and their shared pain.

Terrie Powers’ set and K. Jenna Ferree’s lighting are bright and colorful and appropriately set the mood. Pictures on the walls of big haired 1980′s doos help establish the time and setting. I especially loved the authenticity of the working hair sink and big old hair dryers.

Director Steve Perigard keeps the action visually interesting and varied. He uses all angles of the small three-sided stage to keep the blocking fresh, and provides constant business for all six actresses. It is like watching the kitchen with the wonderful actresses of the Golden Girls (+2) with so much to constantly take in.

The only other drawback was that each act had one scene change which seemed to run a bit long. They were filled nicely with Christmas music and a newscast; and will hopefully move more quickly during the run of the show.

As a reviewer, I have always wanted to say this — you’ll laugh; you’ll cry! Most of all you’ll enjoy the heart-warming time spent with the lovely and talented women of Richmond, via Chinquapin, Louisiana.

Photo Gallery

Cathy Shaffner, Kelly Kennedy Aly Wepplo
Cathy Shaffner, Kelly Kennedy
Aly Wepplo
Aly Wepplo, Jacqueline Jones, Joy Williams Joy Williams, Kelly Kennedy
Aly Wepplo, Jacqueline Jones, Joy Williams
Joy Williams, Kelly Kennedy
Aly Weeplo, Joy Williams, Maggie Roop, Jacqueline Jones  Joy Williams, Aly Wepplo
Aly Weeplo, Joy Williams, Maggie Roop, Jacqueline Jones
Joy Williams, Aly Wepplo
Aly Wepplo Maggie Roop, Jacqueline Jones
Aly Wepplo
Maggie Roop, Jacqueline Jones

Photos by Jay Paul


  • Shelby: Aly Wepplo
  • M’Lynn: Kelly Kennedy
  • Truvy: Joy Williams
  • Ouiser: Cathy Shaffner
  • Clairee: Jacqueline Jones
  • Annelle: Maggie Roop

Production Staff

  • Direction: Steve Perigard
  • Scenic Design: Terrie Powers
  • Lighting Design: K. Jenna Ferree
  • Costume Design: Sue Griffin and Marcia Miller-Hailey
  • Stage Management: Chase Kniffen

Disclaimer: Virginia Rep Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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