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January 23, 2008 > Steel Magnolias couldn't smell sweeter

Steel Magnolias couldn't smell sweeter

By Julie Grabowski

Broadway West opens their 12th season with a warm Southern welcome to sit a spell in Truvy's Beauty Shop and join in the laughter and heartache of "Steel Magnolias." Robert Harling's moving story of six women in a small Louisiana town was inspired by the relationship of his own sister and mother, and his sister's death due to complications from diabetes. Originally written for the stage in 1985, the play was produced off Broadway before receiving its widest recognition as a film four years later starring Oscar winners Sally Field, Olympia Dukakis, Shirley MacLaine and promising newcomer Julia Roberts.

Under the direction of Troy Johnson, Broadway West's production is lively, laugh out loud funny, and full of true heart, an experience definitely worth your evening. The cast displays a perfect partnership, with each member delivering the laughs and shining in turn. Alika Spencer enchants as Shelby, the strong, spirited beauty battling diabetes to live her dream. Spencer is solid and sweetly winning, and recalls her predecessor Julia Roberts with her own big smile. Mary Galde delivers a truly moving performance in the maternal role of M'Lynn, tempting tears to the surface more than once. She completely embodies her character and is a pleasure to watch. Spencer and Galde are a wonderful combination, effortlessly producing all the complex chords of a mother daughter relationship.

As the new-to-town beauty assistant Annelle, Morgan Voellger is a wacky delight. She beautifully slides through Annelle's awkward, wild, and religious transformations with great appeal and humor. The funky offbeat wardrobe in the first act is almost a character in itself. Leslie Newport adds the perfect spice to the beauty shop with her crotchety, indelicate Ouiser. The 40-year bad mood that plagues her character is a constant source of wonderful complaints and biting comments that Newport handles with assurance. Recently widowed Clairee is played by Lillian Bogovich with delightful spunk and zest, and delivers the best action move of the play. Dawn E. Cates completes the cast as the big hearted, gossip ready Truvy, displaying warmth and ready affection.

The women of this play are real and relatable, inviting, and all sorts of fun. "Steel Magnolias" is a sharp and witty story that hits all the right notes of life's comedy and tragedy, where friendship and laughter will always see you through the shadows.

Tickets are $22 general admission and $17 for students, seniors and TBA members. Special pricing applies on Thursdays, when all tickets are $15, as well as to Sunday performances, which are $22 for all attendees. Showtime is 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday with Sunday matinees beginning at 1 p.m. The January 22 and February 3 performances offer a continental brunch before the show at 12:15 p.m., and the February 10 performance will have sandwiches, scones and English tea during intermission. All refreshments are included in the ticket price. A Q&A with the actors will be held after the February 3 show. For reservations and more information call (510) 683-9218, or visit online at

Steel Magnolias
January 18-February 16, 2008
8 p.m., matinees at 1 p.m.
Broadway West Theatre Company
4000-B Bay Street, Fremont
(510) 683-9218
Price: $15-$22

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