Theatre Review: ‘Steel Magnolias’ at Desiderio’s Dinner Theatre

The cast of ‘Steel Magnolias’ at Desiderio’s Dinner Theatre.

Dinner and a show; two things that should always go together. There is something special about a night out on the town where you can have a great meal and see a great show. Luckily, when you visit Bobby J’s Italian American Grill, not only are you given the chance to try some of the best cuisine in the Buffalo area, but you also can see one of the best productions, featuring the strongest ensemble I have seen in a very long time.

.  . .a beautiful and heartwarming production. . .

“Steel Magnolias,” written by Robert Harling, tells the story of a small town beauty salon in Chinquapin, Louisiana, owned by Truvy (Lisa Ludwig) where six women spend their time gossiping about their lives, telling funny stories, and being sounding boards and a shoulder to cry on when things get tough. The story starts out on Annelle’s (Justyne Harris) first day at Truvy’s salon. She just appeared one day in this small town and needed a job to start her new life. Shelby (Bethany Burrows), a regular at the salon, is getting her hair done because it is her wedding day. Her mother, M’Lynn (Lisa Hinca) is battling her daughter’s every decision, because while mother may know best, Shelby wants to be in charge of her own wedding and life decisions. Throw in a few jokes and funny tales from Clairee (Maureen Anne Porter) and Ouiser (Mary McMahan) and you have a small town tale with a big heart. The story takes place over the course of two years, and we see the ups and downs, as these powerful women go through their lives, and are there for each other when things get tough.

This is the perfect production of the intimate space at Desiderio’s Dinner Theatre. The ensemble in this production is phenomenal, and each of the ladies that take to the stage while delivering Harling’s beautiful play deserve to be there. Lisa Ludwig is hilarious as the over the top Truvy. Her delivery and presence is just as big and powerful as her hair! She is a joy to see perform, and does great justice to the role of a beauty shop owner.

Justyne Harris takes on the role of Annelle in this show and makes it quirky and fun. Harris does a wonderful job performing her character’s arc throughout the piece. Starting out as a meek mannered assistant in the beauty shop, and transitioning into a faith seeking born again Baptist, is charming. She balances out the ensemble by bringing a wholesome presence to the stage that is refreshing, and needed for the story to work. She is a delight to see perform.

Maureen Anne Porter is a powerhouse in this show as Clariee. Porter’s comedic chops are phenomenal as she delivers her lines and gets laugh after laugh, as the socialite of Chinquapin. You cannot help but laugh when she enters the stage, but she possesses a great deal of heart in her performance that is beautiful. She does not disappoint.

Bethany Burrows’ performance as Shelby is beautiful. Burrows brings a unique innocence to her character that is both refreshing and fascinating. Her smile lights up the stage and her overall persona does her character complete justice. She will have you crying and laughing all throughout the performance.

Lisa Hinca plays the conflicted maternal character of M’Lynn perfectly. All throughout the show, Hinca is able to play off of Borrows’ Shelby, and we see some of the best conflict and tension between the two of these women. Hinca brings raw emotion to the stage and has the entire audience in tears by the end of the show. She is absolutely fantastic.

Mary McMahan’s Ouiser is perfect for this show. McMahan plays the droll and uptight busybody to a tee. McMahan is hilarious and has no problem bringing the comedy and getting the laughs. She’s extremely entertaining to watch.

Kyle LoConti mounts a beautiful and heartwarming production. Everyone should see this show, because these ladies bring their ‘A’ games and this production is a true master class in acting.

The dinner that accompanies the performance is fantastic as well. Bring your appetite’s because the delicacies at Bobby J’s are sure to be just enough to fill you up.

Running Time: 2 Hours 20 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.

“Steel Magnolias” runs until December 3, 2017 and is presented at Bobby J’s Italian American Grill on Como Park Blvd in Cheektowaga. For more information, click here.