Steel Magnolias at Westchester Playhouse and Chicago the Musicalat Hollywood Pantages

Their afternoon of news and gossip gets interrupted when Ouiser's dog escapes from Truvy’s Beauty Salon. (L-R) Jahnavi Alyssa (Shelby), Elizabeth Summerer (M'Lynn), Grady Hicks (Annelle), Michele Selin (Clairee), Catherine Rahm (Ouiser) and Amy Coles (Truvy) in Steel Magnolias at the Westchester Playhouse. (Photo credit: Gloria Ramirez-Plunkett)

Kentwood Players celebrates Women’s History Month by presenting Steel Magnoliasby Robert Harling, opening Friday, March 15 through Saturday, April 6, 2024, on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. This is a non-equity, all-volunteer production directed by Jon Sparksand produced by Alison Boole and Kirk Larson with rights secured from Dramatists Play Service. Featured in the cast are Jahnavi Alyssa (Shelby), Elizabeth Bouton Summerer (M’Lynn), Amy Coles (Truvy), Grady Hicks (Annelle), Catherine Rahm (Ouiser), and Michele Selin (Clairee). The production is sponsored by the Collins Law Group.

Steel Magnoliasfollows the trials and tribulations of six sassy and formidable women in 1980’s Chinquapin Parish, Louisiana, where Truvy’s Beauty Salon is the place all the ladies who are anybody in town meet on Saturdays to have their hair done and exchange news and gossip. Helped by her eager new assistant, Annelle, the outspoken, wise-cracking Truvy dispenses shampoos and free advice to Ouiser, the town’s rich curmudgeon; Miss Clairee, an eccentric millionaire with a raging sweet tooth; and M’Lynn, the local social leader whose daughter Shelby, the prettiest girl in town, is about to get married. 

Filled with hilarious repartee and humorously revealing verbal collisions, the play takes a dark turn when the spunky Shelby (who is diabetic) goes against the advice of her mother and doctor and risks her life to have a baby. The play draws the women together to deal with life, love, and loss, drawing on their underlying strength and devotion to each other in good times and bad.  

Reserved seat tickets are $25 with a $4 discount for seniors and students, available online at, by emailing the box office at or calling (310) 645-5156. All box office emails and messages will be answered in the order received to confirm your ticket order. Group rates for 10 or more at $18 per ticket can be arranged with the box office. Based on availability, rush tickets will be available at the box office on Saturday, March 23 at 1:30 p.m. for that day’s 2 p.m. performance only.

Metro Train riders can take the K Line to Kentwood, exiting at the Westchester/Veterans station at Florence and Hindry, just one block from the Westchester Playhouse. Riders who show their Metro TAP card when purchasing a full price ticket at the box office will receive a $5 discount for that performance. For drivers, there are two free parking lots available. The small lot next to the Westchester Playhouse is reserved for disabled patrons only. The Hensel Phelps parking lot at 8330 Hindry Avenue (across the street, next to the Metro train tracks) opens an hour before each performance, is locked when a performance begins, and reopens at the end of the show. Free street parking is available on 83rd Street and in the adjoining neighborhood, but do not park on Hindry between the Playhouse and Metrolink station. Please read all traffic and parking signs carefully.

For more information about Kentwood Players including their current production, upcoming auditions and shows, please visit the Kentwood Players website at You can also find Kentwood Players information on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. 

Kailin Brown as Velma Kelly and Company in the Touring Production of Chicago at the Hollywood Pantages. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Daniel)

The 1975 Broadway musical Chicago with music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and book by Ebb and Bob Fosse (who famously directed and choreographed its world premiere), is set in Chicago during the Jazz Age. Based on a 1926 play of the same title by Chicago Tribune reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins about actual criminals and crimes on which she reported, the story is a satire on corruption in the administration of criminal justice and explores the concept of the “celebrity criminal.”

The musical, performed in front of an onstage orchestra as a concert with amazing choreography, is currently at the Hollywood Pantages through March 24, directed by David Hyslop, with choreography by Gregory Butler and music direction by conductor Cameron Blake Kinnear. It’s based on Watkins coverage of the 1924 trials of accused murderers Beulah Annan (upon whom aspiring chorus girl Roxie Hart is based) and Belva Gaertner (upon whom fading vaudeville star Velma Kelly is based). 

In the early 1920s, Chicago’s press and public became riveted by the subject of homicides committed by women, and several high-profile cases arose, which generally involved women killing their lovers or husbands. These cases were tried against a backdrop of changing views of women in the jazz age, and a long string of acquittals by Cook County juries (all men at the time), created the lore that in Chicago, feminine or attractive women could not be convicted of murder. 

Both as cynical as they are sexy, Roxie (Katie Frieden) and Velma (Kailin Brown) compete for the services of shady lawyer Billy Flynn (Connor Sullivan), who promises to make them media celebrities and win them acquittals. Flynn’s character is a compilation of William Scott Stewart and W. W. O’Brien, the lawyers for Annan and Gaertner.

The Tribune’s rivals at the Hearst papers employed what were derisively called “sob-sisters” – women reporters who focused on the plight, attractiveness, redemption, or grace of the female defendants. Regardless of stance, the press covered several of these women as celebrities, reflected by Mary Sunshine in the musical, portrayed by J. Terrell.

Robert Quiles was an audience favorite as Roxie’s husband Amos Hart. But why was his only direction to don white gloves to perform “Mr. Cellophane” when the number calls for more than just standing and singing it? Surely a little soft shoe would have enhanced the number greatly. And of course, there is the belting prison matron “Mama” Morton, portrayed to the hilt by Illeana “illy” Kirven. 

But having seen fully staged productions with intricate sets and scenes better acted out and not just danced, as good as the production was, there was something missing in it for me. After all, I wanted to see a Broadway musical, not just a concert with choreography. And why was Connor Sullivan given the role of Billy Flynn when he could not dance up a storm during “Razzle Dazzle”? However, Flynn is the puppeteer of the entire show, exemplified by Sullivan during “We Both Reached for the Gun” performed with Katie Frieden as his lap top marionette Roxie, always a favorite scene in the musical for me.

Broadway’s longest-running musical has been razzle dazzling audiences for 27 years, and after more than 10,000 performances, 6 Tony Awards, 2 Olivier Awards, and a Grammy, you can now celebrate its music and choreography at the Hollywood Pantages through Match 24. For a complete list of dates and ticket prices, visit