Auditions for Old Town Playhouse’s warmhearted tearjerker “Steel Magnolias” attracted 32 hopefuls for only six parts, a double-edged sword for its director.
“I had some fantastic talent,” said Denni Don Hunting. “I wondered, ‘How do I balance veterans with new blood?” Ultimately, she cast parts to both newcomers and seasoned veterans.
“The gals are just fantastic,” she said. The play, set mostly in a Louisiana beauty shop, revolves around six gossipy, warmhearted friends.
The friendship among the six is tested by not only their personalities but by illness, birth, and death. In the face of profound sadness, their bond strengthens with humor and warmth.
The 1987 play was based on the real-life experiences of playwright Robert Harling, whose sister died from diabetic complications following the birth of his nephew.
Advised to do so by a writer friend, he wrote a short story to give his nephew some understanding of his mother, then turned the story into a play.
The 1989 film starred Julia Roberts, Sally Field and Dolly Parton and is known for its spunky characters that support each other with laughs and love through life’s joyful – and horrible – moments.
“It deals not only with the warm and family part of friendship, but the hard and sad part,” said Hunting. “It’s not just funny lines in a beauty parlor. These are real good friends that stay together in good times and bad.”
“Steel Magnolias” runs from May 8-11 and May 15-17 at Old Town Playhouse in Traverse City. For show times and ticket information, visit oldtownplayhouse.com. The “Steel Magnolias” cast is Maryscott O’Connor (M’Lynn), Maria McKane (Truvy), Betsy Willis (Clairee), Jill Bert (Ouiser), Meaghan Jameson (Shelby), and Carly Anderson (Annell).