When the lights come up on River Falls Community Theater's production of "Steel Magnolias," audience members will find themselves inside a small-town hair salon, much like one that might have been found in River Falls in the 80s and 90s, around the time the play is set.
RFCT transformed its stage, in the River Falls Public Library's lower level gallery, into "Truvy's Beauty Salon," where the action of the play takes place.
"Steel Magnolias," by American writer Robert Harling, tells the story of a group of ladies in the small town of Chinquapin, Louisiana.
The action starts with stylist Truvy hiring an eager new assistant, Annelle. Soon, the eccentric millionaire, Clairee, the widow of the former mayor, and M'Lynn and her daughter Shelby enter the salon. The play starts on the day of Shelby's wedding and the story begins as Truvy begins doing Shelby's hair for her wedding.
Also present is Louisa "Ouiser," the town's "rich curmudgeon."
Filled with witty one-liners and wise-cracking, "Steel Magnolias" weaves together the story of Shelby's marriage and her wish for a family; Ouiser's feud with Shelby's father, Drum; Annelle's personal and spiritual growth; and Clairee's business and life endeavors. The play explores the characters' friendships and relationships with each other and with characters not seen onstage with humor, wit and genuine feeling.
The cast all delivered excellent performances filled with excellent comedic timing that really brought to life the wise-cracking wit of the characters.
Heidi Hanson, of Hudson, and Lauren Morris, River Falls, capture the essence of small-town stylists as Truvy and Annelle (respectively), showcasing the friendships built with their customers.
Danielle Bebus, a recent UW-River Falls graduate and Woodbury resident, shines as Shelby, the lover of fashion, the color pink and family. Bebus' excellent timing and delivery give just the right tone to Shelby's sassy comebacks. Bebus balances that levity with a gravity called for in more serious moments.
Michele Myrick, Cottage Grove, as Ouiser and Barrie Mayer, Hudson, as Clairee, play characters who are very different in personality, but united by a friendship shown very well onstage by Myrick and Mayer, which brings great depth to the performance.
Sheila Pelzel, Hudson, really shines as Shelby's mother M'lynn. Pelzel's good timing and dynamic acting will bring an audience to laughter and tears. Influenced, she said in a public Facebook post, by her own experience as a mother, Pelzel's performance is as moving as it is amusing.
The acting is supported with a beauty salon set that will impress professional stylists, along with authentic props from curling irons to foils. The scene is further set with an excellent soundtrack that brings the audience right into the era of the side ponytail, volumized hair, and shoulder pads.
Overall the play is masterfully done, filled with humor and friendship that helps the characters deal with the struggles of life.
"Steel Magnolias" opened Oct. 19, and performances continue at 7 p.m. Oct. 26 and 27 at the River Falls Public Library. Tickets are $13 at the door and $10 for students.