Steel Magnolias ~ The Little Theatre of Alexandria

Jordan Wright
September 13, 2016
Special to The Alexandria Times
 

- Brenda Parker (Clairee), Kelsey Yudice (Shelby), Patricia Spencer Smith (Ouiser), Susan Smythe (Annelle), Carla Crawford (Truvy) Photo Credit Misty Angel

Brenda Parker (Clairee), Kelsey Yudice (Shelby), Patricia Spencer Smith (Ouiser), Susan Smythe (Annelle), Carla Crawford (Truvy). Photo Credit Misty Angel

Most of you can recall the 1989 movie Steel Magnolias.  You know the one with Julia Roberts as Shelby, the bride-to-be who suffers from diabetes, and Sally Field as her disapproving mother M’Lynn.  And who can forget Dolly Parton in the role of Truvy Jones, the sweet and sexy beauty shop owner? Or Shirley MacLaine as Ouiser, the wisecracking senior who calls it as she sees it.  It had a killer cast that also starred Olympia Dukakis as Clairee, the wife of the town’s former mayor, and was a true story based on the death of playwright Robert Harling’s sister.  Maybe you saw the all-Black cast in the 2012 Lifetime TV remake with Queen Latifah and Phylicia Rashad.  The sublime Alfre Woodard played Ouiser and Jill Scott was Truvy.  It was a flop, but when it comes to dissing husbands and the enduring power of sisterhood, it seems there is always an audience, and always a remake.

Set in Truvy’s beauty salon in small town Chinquapin, Louisiana, the plot revolves around six women whose lives intersect through family and friendship.  Unlike the original film, in this version it is an all-female cast.

Alana D. Sharp (Mary Lynn) and Carla Crawford (Truvy) - Photos by Misty Angel

Alana D. Sharp (Mary Lynn) and Carla Crawford (Truvy) – Photos by Misty Angel

Carla Crawford shines as Truvy.  Her timing and delivery are flawless.  Both the glue and the dynamic force in this production, I hope to see her play more leading lady roles.  Alana D. Sharp in the role of M’Lynn shows dramatic skill in her second act soliloquy, and Kelsey Yudice offers up a nuanced performance as the ever-optimistic Shelby.  Susan Smythe brings a sympathetic tenderness to Annelle, the wayward Bible thumper, and the ever-talented Patricia Spencer Smith, as Ouiser, who gets some of the best lines and best laughs, is hilarious.  Oddly Brenda Parker, known as a reliably fine and well-established actor, gave a puzzling interpretation of Clairee, morphing from a good ole gal into a British-accented snob.  Oh well, it was opening night.

Susan Smythe (Annelle), Carla Crawford (Truvy) - Photo Credit Misty Angel

(l -R) Susan Smythe (Annelle), Carla Crawford (Truvy) – Photo Credit Misty Angel

Although there are laughs aplenty in this all-female cast, the humor is so dated that most born after the 90’s will have no earthly idea what they are talking about.  Call waiting as a novelty? Having your “colors done”?  [Note to younger readers: It means getting a clothing and makeup color palette chosen to suit your skin and hair tones. It was a once a life-or-death thing.]

Though LTA has made their bones putting on top notch musicals, delightfully bawdy British drawing room comedies and intricately staged murder mysteries, I had been encouraged of late to watch them expand their work with edgier productions, even controversial themes.  Last season LTA appeared keen on attracting a new, younger audience, critical to all theaters, with Laughing Stock, In the Heights and God of Carnage…even Spamalot and The Rocky Horror Picture Show were a far braver than past productions.

That said, Director Sharon Veselic has assembled some fine actors to bring this old comedy to life.  And, whatever you think of the 80’s, leg warmers are coming back and not just for Truvy’s sake.

Through October 1st at The Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe Street. For tickets and information call the box office at 703 683-0496 or visit www.thelittletheatre.com

Holiday Performances Around Town

Jordan Wright
December 3, 2015
Special to The Alexandria Times

Reviewer’s Pick – Avant Bard’s Theatre on the Edge brings us Holiday Memories, the tender and evocative semi-autobiographical tale drawn from two beloved short stories by Truman Capote, “A Christmas Memory” and “A Thanksgiving Visitor”. Having seen this at press night Monday past, I can attest to its indelibly affecting charm.

(From left:) Séamus Miller (Buddy), Christopher Henley (Truman) - DJ Corey Photography

(From left:) Séamus Miller (Buddy), Christopher Henley (Truman) – DJ Corey Photography

Directed by Tom Prewitt and staged by Russell Vandenbroucke the show stars Christopher Henley as Truman, Séamus Miller as Buddy (Truman as a lad), Charlotte Akin as Miss Sook, with Liz Dutton and Devon Ross fulfilling several ancillary roles.

(The cast of Holiday Memories, from left:) Charlotte Akin (Miss Sook), Devon Ross (Man), Christopher Henley (Truman), Liz Dutton (Woman), Séamus Miller (Buddy) - DJ Corey Photography

(The cast of Holiday Memories, from left:) Charlotte Akin (Miss Sook), Devon Ross (Man), Christopher Henley (Truman), Liz Dutton (Woman), Séamus Miller (Buddy) – DJ Corey Photography

The play is set in Depression-Era Alabama where young Truman, who is coming to terms with his homosexuality, lives with his adored aunt, Miss Sook, a forthright spinster who administers life’s lessons with a gentle hand. Henley provides the richly textured narration delivering a riveting performance that is nothing short of brilliant reminding this reviewer of Sam Waterston both in spirit and in appearance. Akin too, seizes her character with a ferocity and nuance that is beautifully developed, while Miller lends an endearing pathos to the fragile boy who struggles to find his identity. Through December 20th at Theatre on the Run at 3700 South Four Mile Run Drive, Arlington, VA 22206. For tickets call 703 418- 4108 or visit Avant Barde Theatre

Heather Norcross as Ghost of Christmas Present with Lawrence O. Grey Jr. as Ebenezer Scrooge - Photos by Doug Olmsted

Heather Norcross as Ghost of Christmas Present with Lawrence O. Grey Jr. as Ebenezer Scrooge – Photos by Doug Olmsted

The Little Theatre of Alexandria presents Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, a lavish, family friendly, Victorian paean to the age-old tale of Scrooge’s redemption. Kudos to the adorable Tiny Tim and a cheery nod to the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. Through December 20th at 600 Wolfe Street, Alexandria, VA, 22314. For tickets call 703 683-0496 or visit The Little Theatre of Alexandria

Michael Sharp, Peter Boyer and Tracey Stephens at MetroStage - Photo credit Chris Banks

(L-R) Michael Sharp, Peter Boyer and Tracey Stephens at MetroStage – Photo credit Chris Banks

MetroStage ratchets up Dickens’ tale with a distinctly hilarious, seat-of-your-pants spoof full of dancing and singing to your favorite Broadway tunes. The inimitable Howard Breitbart serves as musical director in Broadway Christmas Carol. Through December 27th at 1201 Royal Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. For tickets call 703 548-9044 or visit MetroStage

Nova Y. Payton at Signature Theatre - photo courtesy of Signature Theatre

Nova Y. Payton at Signature Theatre – photo courtesy of Signature Theatre

Signature Theatre brings Christmas cheer with Dreamgirls star Nova Y. Payton backed by a rockin’ chorus and raising the rafters with holiday tunes like This Christmas, Holiday Rock, Santa Baby, and I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus. Through December 24th at 4200 Campbell Avenue in Shirlington Village, Arlington, VA 22206. For tickets call 703 820-9771 or visit Signature

Washington National Opera: Holiday Family Opera: Hansel and Gretel - Photo courtesy of The Kennedy Center

Washington National Opera: Holiday Family Opera: Hansel and Gretel – Photo courtesy of The Kennedy Center

The Kennedy Center has a host of holiday happenings including the NSO Pops conducted by Principal Pops Conductor Steven Reineke and featuring the von Trapps, of the famed Sound of Music family, with Broadway’s Stephanie J. Bloch performing Christmas classics and new holiday tunes. The Washington National Opera offers a family-friendly Hansel and Gretel complete with cackling witch, enchanted fairies, dancing animals and a massive gingerbread oven. For the high brow, Handel’s Messiah sing-along is on December 23rd. Check listings for these limited performances at Kennedy Center or call 202 467- 4200.

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The Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic presents Two Concertos and a Celebration. Handel’s popular Messiah performed by the NOVA Community Chorus and backed by the splendid symphony who add 20th and 21st century music to the afternoon program. Check the schedule for performance times and locations. For tickets call 703 799- 8229 or visit The Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic