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Steel Magnolias Delights at Summerville’s James F. Dean Theatre

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Flowertown Players Turn in Heartfelt Rendition of Iconic Stage Play

By: Jeff Walker, Entertainment Writer

The sights and sound of Truvy’s Salon come alive at the historic James F. Dean Theatre as the Flowertown Players present a uplifting and heartfelt rendition of Steel Magnolias. Written by Robert Harling and memorialized in the 1989 film by some of the finest actresses to grace the silver screen, Steel Magnolias has become a favorite for local and regional playhouses to offer up, especially theatre groups in the south.

Unlike the hit movie, Steel Magnolias takes place entirely in Truvy’s Salon. Set in fictional small-town Louisiana, the ladies only beauty parlor is where locals gather to share current news, all the while trash talking and spreading the latest gossip. Under the direction of Sue Vinick, a half dozen capable actors with Flowertown beautifully transform themselves into the ensemble cast.

While all six are impeccable in their respective roles, two embody the essence of actresses from the film, with Pat Cullinane and Arlena Withers bringing the roles of M’Lynn and Clairee made popular by Sally Field and the late Olympia Dukakis full tilt. Cullinane is especially remarkable offering up a full range of emotions, with Withers providing some of the best laugh out loud moments. Both are simply endearing.

No doubt Shirley MacLaine made her mark as Ouiser in the ’89 film, and when you want a larger-than-life Charleston area personality to fill that role, you look no further than local veteran Susie Hallatt. Hallatt dug deep bringing all the unbridled angst into the character. Hallatt is familiar with the stage play having played Truvy nearly a decade ago for Sheri Grace’s Midtown Productions. Another stellar performance by Hallatt.

Fresh off her appearance with Flowertown in the holiday classic ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, Anicia D. Brown is equally charming as Truvy. Like her fellow veteran actors, Brown projects just the right amount of spunk into her character. Nicely done.

Rounding out the cast are younger actors Lizzie Mears and Julie Crist respectively as Shelby and Annelle. Mears adds the ideal element of sweetness and anxiety in a role that put a then 22-year-old Julia Roberts on Hollywood’s radar. Not to be outdone, Crist is superb as the more reserved Annelle (Daryl Hannah on screen), a recent newcomer to town who finds employment at the salon, with the ladies helping Annelle break out of her shell.

Kudos go out to It’s Magic Day Spa & Salon appropriately located on N. Magnolia in Summerville, and Charleston Cosmetology for not only helping the actors get comfortable in their craft, but for providing props that helped Vinick and Jason Olsen transform the small stage into a 1980’s era small town beauty parlor. A big shout out as well to Patti Kelly for dressing the cast in appropriate ’80’s attire including Shelby’s signature pink attire.

Flowertown have hit another home run with their rendering of Steel Magnolias. If you loved the movie and appreciate actors that leave it all on the stage I would encourage taking in a performance. It will make you laugh and tug at your heart strings. Flowertown Players presentation of Steel Magnolias runs weekends thru February 6th.

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