Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Raleigh/Durham

Steel Magnolias
Forest Moon Theater
Review by Garrett Southerland

Also see Garrett's review of Native Son

Liz Webb, Christine Rogers, Kelly Stansell,
and Tori Shue

Photo by David Leone
What do you get when you put six Southern women together in a beauty salon? A touch of gossip, a lot of laughter, and occasionally some bittersweet tears. You also get Robert Harling's memorable play, Steel Magnolias, currently produced by the Forest Moon Theater and playing at the Renaissance Centre through September 29. Steel Magnolias is based on the playwright's true-life experience of his sister's death. What started out as his attempt to cope with personal loss went on to become a long-running Off-Broadway hit, and in 1989 a beloved major motion picture.

Mr. Harling wanted to share his observations of family and friends using humor to cope with more serious situations, and he captures the charm and humor of Southern women to a T. Taking place entirely in the beauty salon of Truvy (Kelly Stansell), the play revolves around M'Lynn (Christine Rogers) and her daughter Shelby (Tori Shue). Intermixed are salon regulars Clairee (Alicia Whitfield) and Ouiser (Nicola Lefler), and recent hire Annelle (a convincing and lovable Liz Webb, a standout in this cast). Over the course of a year of holidays, through heartache and humor, these six women prove themselves as delicate as magnolia blossoms, yet strong as steel.

I must make note that this entire production is working to overcome a challenge. Director Mia Peters had the unfortunate task of having to recast the role of Truvy two days before opening. Kelly Stansell stepped in but was still on book for the opening night performance I saw. No matter how much rehearsal had taken place prior to this change, there were bound to be some significant growing pains, so kudos go to Ms. Stansell, who was still a wonderful Truvy. And kudos to the rest of the cast and crew, who are living through the old adage, "the show must go on."

The play, though written over thirty years ago, does not seem dated. Its heart and humor still ring true. At one point Mr. Harling has M'Lynn quote Nietzsche: "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." Hopefully as this run continues, this production will will smooth out its wrinkles to bring the heartwarming and sometimes hysterical play more fully to life, and celebrate the strength we all have within.

Forest Moon Theater's Steel Magnolias runs through September 29, 2019, at Renaissance Centre, 405 S. Brooks St., Wake Forest NC. For tickets and information, visit or call 919-435-9458.

Playwright: Robert Harling
Director: Mia Peters
Assistant Director/Stage Manager: Taylor Nichols
Set Design: Erin Irvin
Costume Design: Gayle Jordan
Lighting Design: Valentia Moya
Sound Design: Karen Herman

Truvy: Kelly Stansell
Annelle: Liz Webb
Clairee: Alicia Whitfield
Shelby: Tori Shue
M'Lynn: Christine Rogers
Ouiser: Nicola Lefler

Photo by: David Leone / Pictured: Liz Webb, Christine Rogers, Kelly Stansell, Tori Shue