Theatre Information

Maplewood Richmond Heights Steel Magnolias

By • Mar 10th, 2012 • Category: Cappies, Missouri

Do you know what “Cuppa-Cuppa-Cuppa” is? Have you ever tasted a red velvet armadillo cake? Maplewood Richmond Heights’ production of Steel Magnolias embraced the warmth of these southern comforts to create a heartwarming live performance.

A tragicomedy by Robert Harling, Steel Magnolias tells the story of six women who work, socialize and primp in a small town beauty salon. Opening on Shelby’s wedding day, the play highlights her unstable medical condition, addressing themes such as love, wealth, happiness and health. Steel Magnolias first premiered Off-Broadway in 1987 and then opened in the West End in 1989, but did not move to Broadway until 2005. Steel Magnolias is famous for the 1989 film adaptation staring Julia Roberts and Dolly Parton; lesser known is that the play was based on the relationships and illness surrounding the playwright’s own sister.

All six “neighborhood women” in the beauty salon played their own distinct role in the moving story of Steel Magnolias. M’Lynn Eatenton (Alex Ford) shined through her marvelous performance as a distressed mother and Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie (Maggie Edmondson) consistently stayed in character, a difficult task considering her stage time in the piece. Truvy Jones (Erin Goodenough) lit the stage with her smooth southern accent and frequent jokes, while Annelle Dupuy-Desoto (Natalie Mitten) enunciated consistently and performed her character transformation with skill. Finally, Clairee Belcher (Jena Doering) physicalized her older character brilliantly and Ouiser Boudreaux (Jaszmyn Epps) created a memorable role by adding comic conflict to even the most dramatic scenes.

As a small cast, the actresses stepped up to the challenge of creating an intimate community. Not only did M’Lynn and Shelby resemble one another, but their convincing performance as a mother-daughter pair was attributed to their unique onstage chemistry. Likewise, Clairee and Ouiser latched on to the comedy in the show, and their transformation of their relationship was compelling. Annelle was well-versed with the set and Truvy displayed a professional sense of space.

Steel Magnolias also excelled with the technical aspects of the production. The lighting set the frame for the play, especially, upon a blown fuse in the salon, a half-dimmed stage set the scene. Similarly, the sound added another layer to the production through a wide spectrum of effects, from gunshots to Christmas tunes. The costumes supported the cast wonderfully, with outfits ranging from overalls to business attire. The props, including a radio, a telephone and salon mobile cart, helped tell the story as well. The set, a simple interior of the beauty salon, was painted brightly and decorated with detail, such as a beautician certification.

With this unique blend of talent and theatrical elements, Maplewood Richmond Heights’ production of Steel Magnolias created a memorable and moving piece of art. The only thing that could have been better? To have enjoyed a slice of the red velvet armadillo cake with the “neighborhood women.”

by Carly Beard of Clayton High School

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