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Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

Stale Magnolias
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Richard's review of Grand Concourse

The Cast
Photo by Gareth Gooch
C.C. Chesterfield runs a beauty salon in a little town in Texas called Rectal and she has five of the weirdest customers with huge wigs. That's the premise of the hilarious drag musical that is playing at the Oasis club in San Francisco until August 5th. It's Stale Magnolias, folks—a tribute to those female-centered films of the 1980s. D'Arcy Drollinger is reviving the two-hour farce by Sean Owens that played in San Francisco in 2009. As we're told, "Imagine a sequel to Steel Magnolias, a lost season of 'Designing Women,' and a second helping Fried Green Tomatoes all rolled into one."

It's the story of five women in 1985 who prove that big hair and padded shoulders can overcome any adversity. The tragedy is that these women with six foot tall hairdos suddenly realize they're suffering from testosterone poisoning from the water supply in the city, leading to male pattern baldness.

Stale Magnolias is a lot tamer than the Champagne White series that Drollinger and company has produced in the past. However, it's a great fun production with five amazing drag queens camping up a storm with a score by Dan Seaver and Sean Owens that is upbeat and smacks of Texas-style music.

The production opens with a huge screen on stage as local station KWHY has just announced the town's oldest citizen, Miss Vita Brevis, age 105, has died after going on a sugar binge in protest of the introduction of a new Coke. The screen disappears and we are at the Last Chance Salon where owner C.C. Chesterfield (Marilynn Fowler) is ready to greet her customers for chin-wagging, enhancing, and sweet tea. Her motto is "Natural beauty is no excuse."

First to come through the door of the establishment is Sugar Sweetly (Michael Phillis), who has just gotten the job as receptionist. She does not have a brain in her head but she smiles a lot and is super sugar sweet. She of course harbors a terrible secret that we learn in the second act.

Louisiana Morales (Jerry Navarro), on roller skates, is known as "Loose" by traveling salesmen. She is preparing for an audition for what I assume would be Andrew Lloyd Webber's Starlight Express. Following in her wheelchair is Fanny Chaffer (Drew Todd), who has now become the oldest resident of Rectal since Vita has passed on to her heavenly reward. Fanny owns the town's biggest water supply in Rectal. She does not have a kind word to say to anyone in the town.

Spuvina Fetlock (Robert Molossi) is the former "Miss Squash Blossom Queen" and had a walk-on in Wes Craven's horror film Terror Train. They run the film at the local movie house every year and tonight's the night. Finally arriving at the salon is Raven Looney (Jef Valentine), Spuvina's nemesis who looks like Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard and comes up with such gems as "You spread your lies, spread your legs, and both are rotten" when talking to her rival.

Michael Phillis, Jerry Navarro, Drew Todd, Robert Molossi and Jef Valentine with their drag apparel and wild wigs, compliments of Jef Valentine on costumes and wigs by Jordan L'Moore, shine in their roles. I. The lone female in the cast is Marilynn Fowler as the properness of the salon. She has the best voice in the group and she beautifully sings several numbers during the two hour production.

Sarah Phykitt has created an excellent set of the beauty salon on the small stage while Leonardo Hildago's lighting is bright and cheery. Cora Values skillfully directs this farce. Composer Don Seaver ably assists on keyboard along with Mark Macario on drums.

Stale Magnolias runs through August 6, 2016, every Thursday-Friday-Saturday at 7 pm at Oasis, 298 11th Street corner of Folsom, San Francisco. Tickets are $25-$35 in advance at

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