Friday, February 17, 2017

reviews - STEEL MAGNOLIAS - Mountain View High School Special Event

Tregoney Shepherd, Melody Stuart, Kelli James, Lana Shumway, and Joy Bingham Strimple
Photo by Allyson Van Patten
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

"Mountain View High School drama teacher Jere Van Patten is living proof that one should never underestimate the power of Facebook or the strength of friendships. Last October he posted on his Facebook page that he'd love to direct the classic comedy drama Steel Magnolias, and almost instantly he received dozens of ecstatic replies from his friends saying they were interested in either appearing in or attend this production. Fast forward four months and not only was Van Patten able to fulfill his dream, as a fundraising event for his high school, but his superb production attracted large audiences to see a cast composed of actresses who either grew up or now reside in the Valley, including several ladies with Broadway and national tour credits....Robert Harling's somewhat autobiographical 1987 play focuses on a close-knit group of women who reside in a fictitious Louisiana town, with all of the action playing out in Truvy's garage, which has been made over into a beauty salon. ...The story follows these women over a three-year period as the events in their lives, both funny and tragic, play out....Kelli James, an original Les Misérables cast member and the first American to play Eponine on Broadway, was full of heart and motherly advice as Truvy, while Tregoney Shepherd, who has appeared on Broadway in The Phantom of the Opera and as Madame Thenardier in Les Misérables, was full of elegance and wit as the smart, wealthy woman who discovers there is much more to life than being a small-town widow. ...Beka Burnham, who appeared as Nessarose the last time the tour of Wicked was in town, was set to play Shelby but due to illness local favorite Jessie Jo Pauley stepped in with little more than 24 hours' notice. With script in hand, Pauley delivered a knock-out portrayal of this stubborn girl who has her share of obstacles yet never finds a way to not live life to its fullest.Melody Stuart was appropriately reserved as Shelby's mother, ..Stuart was flawless in her delivery of M'Lynn's emotional meltdown toward the end of the play. Joy Bingham Strimple was full of fire as the scene-stealing Ouiser...Lana Shumway's portrayal was superb in demonstrating how Annelle changes and how she gains strength and independence over the timeline of the play. ...Van Patten's direction made every moment, whether comical or emotional, ring true. ...While Van Patten may have used Facebook and not a Southern hair salon to confide his wish to direct this play to his friends, Steel Magnolias, just like Van Patten's experience, shows that the power of friendship is instrumental in solving the difficulties of life. With a talented cast and assured direction, this special event production proved to be one of the major highlights of the 2016-2017 season." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"Jere Van Patten knows. The universe conspires to do good, meaningful things. On this occasion, his simple, earnest Facebook plea five months ago yielded him a benefit production of Steel Magnolias this weekend packed with Broadway, Equity actors and loaded with heart. He said out loud last October to no one and everyone, "Dear peoples of the Facebook: I really really really want to direct Steel Magnolias... Let's make this happen, mkay? Thanks, bye."...A tightly woven excellent piece of drama, the 1987 Robert Harling stage play ...takes place in a beauty salon while the audience bears witness to how each of five  women's tough-as-nails exteriors fall away in one another's company to expose the delicate griefs and challenges they bare only to one another....(Kelli) James as salon owner Truvy carried the show with a Southern hospitality and intuitive sensitivity that was bigger than her 80s hair. (Tregony) Shepherd's grace and surly wisdom brought layers to Clairee's wealthy, austere role.  ..(Joy Bingham) Strimple's irrascible Ouiser was somehow more lovable the crankier she became.  (Melody) Stuart's M'Lynn carried a loving mother's fear disguised as nagging with palpable tension.  (Lana) Shumway's wayward Annelle had just enough uncertainty in her to have us doubt the religious devotion she so dearly wanted to embrace. How (Jessie Jo) Pauley stepped into Burnham's role for the Friday performance as Shelby with just a few hours notice is a miracle secret the universe is holding hostage. But how she shone! ..."Art changes lives," Van Patten maintained.  "It sure changed mine."..." -- Jennifer Haaland, PHX Stages (click here to read the complete review)

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