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Riverside Dinner Theater Steel Magnolias

By • May 19th, 2014 • Category: Reviews, Virginia
Steel Magnolias
Riverside Dinner Theater: (Info) (Web)
Riverside Center, Fredericksburg, VA
Through June 8th
2:30 with intermission
$60/$45 Show Only/$40 child/Discount available for Seniors
Reviewed May 18th, 2014

Steel Magnolias is the perfect title for a play about the lives of six strong, sturdy Southern women. Perhaps better known as an iconic 1989 movie starring Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Julia Roberts and Shirley MacLaine, it creates a challenge for the actresses in the roles to make the characters their own and avoid comparisons.

Director Sherri Edelen has cast the current production at the Riverside Center in Fredericksburg wisely; choosing actresses with enough similarities to their legendary counterparts to make the characters recognizable, yet with enough talent to make these women their own unique creations.

As Artistic Director Patrick A’Hearn points out in pre-show announcements; Steel Magnolias marks the first non-musical production in Riverside’s 16 year history and it is a strong choice.

The play takes place in the 1980′s 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 its owner, Truvy is the heart of the group of women. As portrayed by Andrea Kahane, Truvy is a more down to earth, southern version of Roseanne, throwing out one-liners of greeting card wisdom and dishing out the gossip.

Her group of friends include bride-to-be Shelby and her domineering, protective mother M’Lynn. Emily Perkins is warm, spunky, optimistic and child-like as Shelby. Constance Shofi is steady and controlled as the rock of the group M’Lynn.

Jennifer Joyner truly develops Annelle, from Truvy’s shy, self-conscious and mysterious new assistant to a stronger, deeply grounded religious young woman. Rounding out the group are two of the town’s older and wealthier residents, widow and former town first lady, Clairee and local curmudgeon Ouiser. Carol Hagy is proper and dignified as Miss Clairee, but it is Kathy Halenda who steals the show as Ouiser. Her every movement and line demonstrated her comedic timing. Even when preparing coffee on the sidelines, Halenda was a joy to behold with her campy business.

As the play advanced, the six actresses gelled in creating characters who were not caricatures rather were quirky, and funny yet believable. The dialogue and rapport were natural, as the actresses maintained an energetic pace and cut one another off or talked over one another as real people and friends tend to do. This all makes the ending even more powerful as you feel their love for one another and their shared pain.

The only thing I would have changed with this production involved the set from scenic coordinators Matthew P. Wetscott and Stefannie Smith. While the set itself was appropriate as Truvy’s 1980′s beauty shop, I found a backdrop where the ceiling would have been, filled with alternating white cloudy skies and solid white bare trees a bit distracting and out-of-place. Gaye Law’s costumes were appropriate and highlighted the characters’ quirks while Joseph Wallen’s lights helped set the mood and highlight the action and emotion.

One nice touch didn’t go unnoticed — a Dolly Parton song playing on the radio!

Strong performances filled with laughs and tears make Riverside Center’s production of Steel Magnolias a strong choice for southern charm and entertainment on a warm spring evening.

Photo Gallery

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Photos provided by Riverside Dinner Theater

Cast (in order of appearance)

  • Truvy Jones: Andrea Kahane
  • Annelle Dupuy-Desoto: Jennifer Joyner
  • Clairee Belcher: Carol Hagy
  • Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie: Emily Perkins
  • M’Lynn Eatenton: Constance Shofi
  • Ouiser Boudreaux: Kathy Halenda

Production Staff

  • Producer/ Artistic Director: Patrick A’Hearn
  • Direction: Sherri Edelen
  • Scenic Design: Matthew P. Westcott, Stefannie Smith
  • Lighting Design: Joseph Wallen
  • Costume Design: Gaye Law
  • Production Manager: Carole Shrader
  • Technical Director: Phil Carlucci
  • Stage Manager: Ben Feindt
  • Rehearsal Stage Manager: Marc Brunhofer
  • Assistant Stage Manager: Ashton Banks
  • Senior Stage Technician: Steve Thompson
  • Stage Technicians: Geoff McPherson, Eric Jones
  • Lighting Technicians: Emily Griffith, Kim McDowell, Kathryn Moncure
  • Audio/ Lighting Technician: Hannah Shrader
  • Costume Master: Chris Hlusko
  • Costume Assistants: Amber French, Shania Stewart
  • Head Rigger: Paul Johannes
  • Properties Supervisor: Kylie Clark

Disclaimer: Riverside Dinner Theater provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

This article can be linked to as: http://showbizradio.com/go/10113.

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