STEEL MAGNOLIASBy Robert Harling
Truvy – Kourtney Leigh Harris
Annelle – Madeline Ruth Pickens
Clairee – Pamela J. Cowser
Shelby – Sarah Michal Roberts
M’Lynn – Sherry Small
Ousier – Barrie Alguire
Director – Bill Sizemore
Stage Manager – Jackie Kiefer
Costume Design – Dallas Costume Shoppe
Set Design – Wendy Rene’e Searcy
Light Design – Ken Davis
Sound Design – Kevin Brazil
Props – Cindy Tremmel
Hair and Wig Design – Logan Broker
Backstage Crew – Ash Rhoades, Julia Schaeffer
Reviewed Performance: 5/4/2018
Reviewed by Joel Gerard, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Act One starts at Truvy’s beauty shop where Truvy, the owner, is interviewing a new girl, Annelle, for a hairdresser position at her shop. Truvy has a big, boisterous personality and loves hearing all the gossip from her clients. She’s a romantic at heart and genuinely wants her friends to be happy. Kourtney Leigh Harris plays Truvy and she is delightful every minute she is on stage. Ms. Harris does an excellent job listening to her scene partners and staying in the moment which is even more difficult considering she’s really styling hair during the scenes. And she was always loud enough that I could hear her lines, which was not always the case with some of the other women.
I was very impressed with Madeline Ruth Pickens as Annelle. Annelle grows as a character from each scene to the next and probably has the biggest overall journey from start to finish. She goes from timid, to wild child, to settling down over the course of the show. Ms. Pickens gives one of the best performances I’ve seen on a Dallas/Fort Worth stage in a while. She nailed every aspect of this character with her voice and mannerisms and natural presence. There is a speech Annelle has toward the end of the show that Ms. Pickens delivers flawlessly. It’s a lovely and touching moment.
Clairee is a former Mayor’s wife and widower trying to find something meaningful to do with her time. Her husband left her a sizeable amount of money which Clairee uses to support the local community. This is a character that truly exudes Southern charm and hospitality which Pamela J. Crowser does with ease. Ms. Crowser delivers her lines with a twinkle in her eye and a smile that is infectious. She’s so good that I forgot she was acting at times and I wished I could go up and sit on the couch and have a conversation with her.
Shelby is the youngest character in the show and we first see her at Truvy’s to get her hair done on her wedding day. Shelby is diabetic and has struggled with her health ever since she was a child. But she’s independent and doesn’t want her health issues to stop her from doing the things she wants in life. Shelby has a big character arc during the show as well. Sarah Michal Roberts plays Shelby and gives a great performance with a lot of detail. Her accent is spot-on and her physicality immediately reflects how Shelby matures from one scene to the next. Ms. Roberts gives a nuanced performance and her presence is missed when she’s not on stage.
M’Lynn is the kind of woman who can tackle anything. She’s a wife, mother to 3 children, and a working woman. M’Lynn is particularly protective of her daughter Shelby, and is worried about her being able to take care of herself. Sherri Small is wonderful as M’Lynn. She hit all the right emotional notes for this complex role. There is a memorable scene toward the end of the show where Ms. Small finally gets to let loose and deliver a heartbreaking performance.
Ouiser is a cantankerous old broad who has lived in this small Louisiana town her whole life. She loves her dog, and though she is loath to admit it, her friends too. She rarely has a nice thing to say about anything, but once in a while we see a glimmer of the heart of gold under the crusty exterior. I loved watching Barrie Alguire skulk around the stage in overalls as Ouiser. She looked and sounded great. Ouiser doesn’t enter until a little later in Act One, and I was expecting her to come barreling in like a bull in a china shop. She’s mad as hell and enters frantic and yelling. But Ms. Alguire entered with more of whimper than a bang. It would have been nice to see a little more energy in that scene.
Upon entering the black box theater, I was completely blown away by the set for this show. Wendy Rene’e Searcy created an absolutely believable beauty shop from the 1980’s that is incredibly stunning. This cutaway set had all the necessary equipment for a salon including a dryer chair, a working shampoo and hair washing chair, a desk, a sofa, and a coffee station. I loved the tacky orange and green floral wallpaper on the back wall. It was definitely of that period and a visually interesting focal point, but I think I loved the little details the most. One side had a brick wall with ivy growing on it and garden hose coiled up at the bottom. The other side was a wooden porch that was the entrance to the shop complete with screen door and hanging sign for Truvy’s. I always love a practical set, and Ms. Searcy incorporated running water and integrated lighting fixtures in her design. All the pieces had a lived-in quality that worked together to complete this astonishing set.
Unfortunately, the two biggest issues I had were with the sound. The actors didn’t have body microphones, which in a small theater space like this is really not a necessity, but because of the thrust stage configuration with the audience sitting on three sides, there were many times when an actor would have their back to a portion of the audience and I couldn’t hear their lines. Several times throughout the show there were instrumental sound cues meant to underscore the dramatic moments of a scene, but I actually found them distracting and unnecessary. It was pulling focus from the action on the stage. The other sound cues, like the gun shots and radio, were great. It was just disappointing that I missed some of the witty dialogue because of these sound issues.
Special mention goes to Logan Broker for hair and wig design and to Cindy Tremmel for props. Mr. Broker crafted some amazing hair designs for these women and the wigs were cut and styled perfectly. There were a lot of props on the stage and Ms. Tremmel chose wisely. All the brushes, hairspray, curlers, and hairdryers blended seamlessly with the set.
This is a play about friendship, adversity, relationships, and the fragility of life. We could all learn a thing or two from these strong women. Go check out Theatre Frisco and watch these Steel Magnolias bloom.
Frisco Discovery Center
8004 N. Dallas Parkway
Frisco, TX 75034
May 4th – 20th, 2018
Tickets: For dates, times, and ticket information go to www.theatrefrisco.com or call the box office at 972-370-2266.