TexArts is a community/professional theatre in Lakeway, TX. For the first time in over three years they are once again producing a professional season, with some great top notch shows that are sure to pull a solid crowd. One of the shows that TexArts has chosen for their foray back into the professional world of theatre is Steel Magnolias.
Steel Magnolias is a perennial classic for community and professional theatres alike. Some productions are good, some are great, some are ugly and some are just plain bad. The production that TexArts has created is a little of all of those adjectives. The show is full of funny moments thanks to the great script by Robert Harling. The Cast is good, there are some that are better than others but we will get to that later. The set is ugly, well it is supposed to be, I mean it is an “enclosed carport turned beauty shop in the 1980’s” so while ugly it is perfectly designed for this show. The direction is in my opinion where you get to the just plain bad.
The cast is comprised of some of my favorite Austin Actresses, Babs George is someone I feel can do no wrong. She could walk on stage in a gunny sack and read the dictionary and I would be enthralled. Her depiction of M’lynn Eatenton was superb, she delivers a stunning portrayal of a mother coming to grips with the decisions of her daughter, good or bad. George’s ability to deliver a line is tony worthy. Linda Bradshaw is a gorgeous and talented woman with a heart of gold. The perfect fit for the classy and elegant former mayor’s wife Clairee Beltcher. Bradshaw’s character of Clairee starts out slow and comes to life as the show progresses. Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie is a dream role for most young actresses, Jenny Lavery takes on this iconic character in this production. Lavery is a perfect fit for Shelby she is sweet, pretty, and has just enough sass to make Shelby a spitfire but respectful. An often overlooked character in this show is Annelle Dupuy-Desoto, however Ally Jones creates an Annelle you won’t quickly forget. Her portrayal is smart and shows a solid pattern of growth from the scared timid girl into a confident and self-assured young wife, and soon to be mother. Truvy the matron of the beauty salon that the show takes place in, is supposed to be a larger than life character who is filled with sass and wit, and the ablity to turn a phrase at a moment’s notice. Unfortunately Allison Orr’s portrayal of Truvy is none of those things. Orr consistently dropped lines, and forgot where she was in the show and on stage. It was painfully obvious throughout the performance that she was uncomfortable on stage, thus making her audience uncomfortable with her. On a more positive note, saving the best for last, is Sheila Lucas as the unforgettable Ouiser! Lucas has crafted a well rounded character who is often played one sided. Lucas shows she had an understanding of the moments that are funny and the moments that are sweet and she shows us the difference between the two.
The casting is for the most part solid, but the direction I feel missed the mark on several levels. There are many missed opportunities in this show. Some of the funniest lines in this show just fall flat in the delivery and staging here. The blocking lacks motion and creates a show that should be clipping along at a steady but quick pace, lags leaving the audience wondering when the punchline will come. However, there are some moments of gold in this production also. This is a script that is rich with emotion, layers and depth. Director Christina J. Moore has helped her cast dig into that depth when it counts. I just wish there was more! Another area that seems to need some reconsideration is the costumes. This is a show set in the heart of the 1980’s and yet the costumes looked like something out of a current day goodwill bin. Parts and pieces of the show looked like they were directly from the era, then others namely Truvy’s costumes looked like they were straight out of the actresses closet. I understand designing a show on a budget but this felt like the costumer didn’t even try.
However with a show like Steel Magnolias you can’t go wrong, audiences will love it no matter who it is just a perfect feel good show. The cast does a great job of reaching you and reminding you of the point of the show, the love of Mother and Child. All in all I give this show a 3 out of 5 Stars. TexArts has done a great job within their means to create a show that audiences will enjoy. They have one more production in their professional season and a fun holiday cabaret coming up soon. Check out their website for more information. http://www.tex-arts.org/