Myiesha Duff and Cara Serber in ‘Steel Magnolias’ at Theatre Arlington. (Photos by Jacob Oderberg)

Steel Magnolias, now playing at Theatre Arlington, was an uplifting and joyous production about the bond between six women in a Southern beauty parlor. TA nailed all the elements in creating a successful show with a superb cast, a charming set and on-point direction by Steven D. Morris. Set in Truvy’s Beauty Spot in Chinquapin, Louisiana, in the 1987, six women find refuge in the space n0t just for hair and nails but for gossip, news and friendship. The show opened last weekend.

Truvy, the owner of the salon, is always there for her customers with a listening ear and a kind word and hires mysterious newcomer Annelle. M’Lynn is mother to Shelby and both begin the play planning her daughter’s wedding. Clairee is a wealthy widow who is quick with her cutting wit. Ouiser is the cranky elder of the bunch but not without a heart.

The magic of this show was its strong casting. The chemistry and talent of the six actors felt less like watching a play, and more as an extra seat in the beauty parlor witnessing the story playout.

In last Sunday’s matinee, Shannon McGrann was a natural as Truvy and played her with such ease. She exuded Southern hospitality with natural warmth with stellar comic timing for some big laughs. At the show’s beginning, Truvy is welcoming a nervous Annelle to work with her at the beauty parlor. As McGrann comforted a fresh faced GeCamri Amberay, she set the tone for what was to come. Amberay was a refreshing talent in her TA debut. From meek and shy to a woman finding her voice and even some sass, Amberay was lovely beginning to end.

Myiesha J. Duff played Clairee with vivacious energy and humor. Constantly chipper, Duff still exuded a sophistication to the part playing a character much older than herself. She balanced out Cheryl Ford-Mente’s nettlesome Ouiser. Ford-Mente was appropriately in her 40-year-long bad mood as the character churned out bitter but funny rants. She perhaps had the juiciest of lines after McGrann and never let slip.

The drama of the play centered mostly on M’Lynn and Shelby and Cara Serber and Olivia Cinquepalmi. Their mother-daughter tug-of-war was palpable but also their family bond. The two actors were so different in their characterizations — Serber a bit more on the serious side while Cinquepalmi delivered Shelby with flirty charm. But they vibed perfectly together in their tense moments and their sweet ones. There’s that scene where M’Lynn has a dramatic breakdown. Watching Serber break down from her M’Lynn’s bereft was wrenching but so masterful in displaying a range of emotions.

Bryan Stevenson gave the show its gorgeous look as Lighting and Scenic Designer and Technical Director. The set was a proper beauty parlor that was homey and cozy but also cleverly staged on two levels. Hope Cox’s costuming never screamed ’80s but felt right for the period with more casual but timeless looks outside of Clairee’s fabulous retro skirt suits.

Steel Magnolias clearly hinges on the friendship and sisterhood of these characters. This cast felt natural together which gave the show a beautiful depth. Plus, McGrann and Amberay’s hair work looked legit. Props for even that realism. Morris’ direction gave these characters space to breathe resulting in a show filled with drama, laughs and feel good vibes without being sappy.

The show runs through May 20.

–Rich Lopez