Northern Virginia Magazine: Steel Magnolias

It’s a famous show about Hair, and no, it doesn’t end in -spray or feature nude dancers

Chances are, you’ve either seen or heard of “Steel Magnolias.” It opened Off-Broadway in 1987, and by 1989, playwright Robert Harling transformed his script into an iconic movie featuring A-listers Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Daryl Hannah, Olympia Dukakis, and Julia Roberts. With six strong female leads, “Steel Magnolias” is the perfect solution for many of today’s modern theatre companies housing an abundance of actresses.

Keegan Theatre may not have Hollywood A-listers, but they’ve got family. Mother and daughter Sheri and Laura Herren play M’Lynn and Shelby, and whether it is their talent or their natural rapport, they’ve got a loving banter that reads well with the audience.

Larissa Gallagher’s Truvy carried the show with her polished performance. Linda High’s Ouiser stole the audience’s laughter with her comedic timing, punch line delivery, and commanding, demanding characterizations. The performances from all six felt organic, which is a compliment to their skill and the hidden magic of their supporting production team.

Mark A. Rhea gives the show good direction by staging his actresses around the various levels and spaces of the beauty salon. For a show that can wind down because it takes place in a single location, the on-stage actions and movement keep it dynamic. Extra touches like the invisible mirror establish comedic moments where the women can look out at the audience, even if they’re not actually doing so. Carol Baker and Trena Weiss-Null gave the set a visible salon look, and the fact that the actresses were able to style each other’s hair on stage using electrical appliances is both a testament to Baker’s and Weiss-Null’s set work as well as proof of hair designer Craig Miller’s excellent teaching. Erin Nugent made readable costume choices for the characters, and overall I was impressed with the palette which the audience was given to view the show.

The story of “Steel Magnolias” is tried and true. A group of women, a cast of characters in small-town Louisiana, gathers at Truvy’s Beauty Salon to gossip and grieve in the safe haven they’ve created from their tumultuous lives. The show will touch your heart, and maybe even make you cry. Keegan Theatre’s production of the show stays true to the show’s depiction of a group of true friends and the story they’ve got to tell.

-Read review at NorthernVirginia