Review: 'Steel Magnolias' at The Brookfield Theatre for the Arts

Nancy Sasso Janis

‘Steel Magnolias’ is one of my favorite filmed versions of a play. It featured an all-star cast of stars including Julia Roberts, Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Daryl Hannah, Shirley MacLaine and Olivia Dukakis. I also appreciate the beautiful play written by Robert Harling about six very strong Southern women living and supporting each other in Chinquapin, Louisiana. That is why I am so thankful that I managed to catch one of the final performances of the production running at The Brookfield Theatre for the Arts, a venue that never fails to put on a full-fledged production and this wonderfully directed version of ‘Steel Magnolias’ that featured an outstanding cast of ladies in Truvy’s hair salon is no exception.

Members of the cast of 'Steel Magnolias' at TBTA Photos by Stephen Cihanek

In his especially beautiful director’s note, Tom Sheehan explains that he chose this piece because of the story: the setting of the slower pace of a small Southern town, the strongly drawn six characters, “a play about women so carefully and lovingly a man.” I would add that Mr. Sheehan directed this amazing collection of actresses with the same care and love, bringing the audience this “touching, funny, honest story of love, friendship, of joy and sorrow, but mostly...of hope.”

Amber Mason played Truvy Jones, the owner of the best beauty shop in Chinquapin, with hair that is even bigger than the hairdo sported by Dolly Parton in the poster that decorates the wall of this salon. Ms. Mason was recognized by OnStage critics in both 2014 and 2015 for her previous performances. Kristen Hoose (‘Rent’) returned to TBTA to play the young Annelle, the stylist who is new in town and has a past.

Rebekah Derrick (Mother in the Warner’s ‘Ragtime’) nailed all her one-liners in her delicious Southern drawl as Clairee Belcher, the First Lady of the parish. Monica O’Brien in her TBTA debut was terrific as the prickly Ouiser Boudreaux.

Members of the cast of 'Steel Magnolias' at TBTA Photos by Stephen Cihanek

Marilyn Olsen (who I remembered as the witch in TBTA’s ‘Into the Woods’) was amazing as the ever-supportive mother M’Lynn and Katy Ann Milano of Brewster NY was her beautiful daughter Shelby. 

The one-liners were all well delivered by these ladies in perfect Southern accents. “The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize,” is one of my favorites.
Mr. Sheehan has added a long list of carefully chosen musical snippets to the action and the music credits fill a page in the program. Andrew Okell designed the hair salon set with one “outdoor” addition used in only one key scene. Nicole Veach decorated the salon with authenticity and Corrine Bottelsen designed the perfect period costumes. Ms. Olsen is credited as the “wig whisperer” in a show that requires one. 

The last show of the season at BTFA is ‘‘Night Mother’ Nov. 6-21 directed by Michael Burnett and starring Meg Jones and Stacy-Lee Erickson Frome.