As the lights went down at the Norton Center for the Arts at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, I was quickly swept back to my childhood. Growing up in a small town where beauty shops like the one in Steel Magnolias were the norm and the gossip and stories swirled around like freshly cut hair as it falls to the floor immediately endeared the show to my heart.
Having seen the film version of Steel Magnolias many times growing up I went into the play knowing what to expect, or so I thought. I was expecting to see more characters and more action outside of Truvy's Beauty Shop, but I was mistaken. Everything takes place in Truvy's shop and the outside action is described to the audience via gossip and stories. While I miss seeing Ouiser hand Shelby's father a certain piece of armadillo groom's cake and the antagonist relationship between them and other characters, this staging proved to be quite effective. It allowed the audience to form a more personal connection to the six main characters. While the characters of Ouiser and Annelle were played a little weak in my opinion, Kendra Mylnechur shined as Shelby. Her enthusiasm and southern charm won over everyone's heart and made the closing scene so bittersweet that it brought both tears of sadness and joy to my eyes.
The first act went a little slow and it seemed as though a few of the actors were having some difficulty staying in character. This made my emotional attachment to the characters hard to form, but when the curtain came up on act two all of that changed. It seemed as though the actors were more energized and more in character. The acting was flawless and emotionally compelling. These characters morphed into close friends and their tragedies seemed to hit close to heart. By the end of act two there was not a dry eye in the house. These six actresses are to be applauded for pulling off such a large range of emotions in the short span of roughly two hours.
This play is a heart warming tale of six women of different ages who all come together to look nice and support each other. While the play is set in a beauty shop where external beauty is emphasized, the true message is clear- exteriors are misleading, internal strength and friendship are the most important and beautiful things that there are in this world. Should this little bit of the South come to your town I urge you to visit Truvy's beauty shop and learn a few life lessons from Steel Magnolias.
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