Encore Michigan

Tipping Point presents familiar, lovable ‘Steel Magnolias’

Review May 05, 2023 Bridgette Redman

NORTHVILLE, MI–Steel Magnolias has been popular since it first came out in the 1980s and has been popping up in many Michigan theaters this season, both professional and community. Tipping Point Theater presents its version this month, one directed by Jamie Warrow and starring a delightful cast of six women who capably embody the Southern women.

Steel Magnolias is set in a small-town Louisiana beauty salon where six women spanning several generations support each other through both good times and bad. It’s a play filled with laughter and almost guaranteed to spark tears at least once.

In the curtain speech, the audience is given two reassurances. The first is a warning that there will be gunshots, but that they are all offstage. The second is that while you can’t do a show about 80s hair without hairspray, all their hairspray bottles are filled with water-based sprays and are perfectly safe for the actors and audience.

The set is an explosion of pink, something the character Shelby surely approves of as it is her signature color. Kristin Ellert designed a working beauty salon that feels like a real place, a getaway and home for these women where they can tell their deepest secrets. With each scene change, the set is filled with props and set dressing that further the story and contribute to the comedy.

Warrow holds true to a traditional interpretation of the show, a vision designed to appeal to those familiar with the film or play. She cast each actor to type—with most of them bearing physical familiarity to their film counterparts and making similar choices.

All six women manage to produce authentic Southern accents while always being clear and easy to understand. When it comes to the skill sets of acting, all the performers have them down pat and then go a step further to embody these women, to bring them to life so that the audience forgets these are actors and not actually six women trying to meet the challenges and sorrows of life.

Sonja Marquis plays a lovable Truvy, eager to make everyone at home in her shop and to take care of the women she loves. Taylor Congdon is delightful as the young Annelle who goes from a lost child to a confident evangelical. Jan Cartwright captures the dignity and power of a mayor’s wife while Julia Glander is wonderfully grumpy and opinionated as Ouiser.

Central to the success of the show is the relationship between Shelby and her mother M’lynn. Sara Kmiec and Sarah B. Stevens respectively always let the love shine through their bickering. Their bond sparkles with electricity in every interaction. Stevens is particularly powerful in her final scene and Warrow moves her upstage center to draw in dramatic focus.

All the actors are committed to creating characters that the audience can care about, that they can love and root for. They each have their quirks, but even those contribute to making them more lovable.

There are many audience members who say that post-pandemic they are looking for laughter and a reason to leave their houses, an escape from the constant barrage of bad news. Steel Magnolias fulfills the role of nostalgia that achieves timelessness, an opportunity to laugh and to shed cathartic tears. It offers a picture of resiliency, strength and hope.

Tipping Point presents a familiar version for those who love the play and the movie, one with no real surprises. It’s comfort food for the brain and soul, and who doesn’t need an occasional dose of that?

Week of 6/17/2024

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