When director Jerod Howard began putting together the cast for the Lakeland Players’ production of “Steel Magnolias,” he had a wealth of talent to choose from.
“We had a great turnout,” said Howard, who is guest directing with the Players after working with producer Tom Jones during “The Shawshank Redemption” at The Haylofters in Burlington last year. “Everybody read wonderful.
“But there’s something about a connection,” he added. “I eventually just saw the cast in front of me on the stage.”
“Steel Magnolias” offers unique challenges for a show – the story of six women joined by the bond of friendship, all coming from different perspectives and personalities. The entire play takes place in the bastion of womanhood – a hair salon, where each woman faces her challenges, her dreams, her hopes and her fears.
At the center of the circle of friends are Shelby – a young woman with diabetes – and her mother, M’Lynn. The four scenes of the play cover a span of about two to two and a half years, each scene a look into an important point in the life of mother and daughter. Surrounding the two are savvy stylist Truvy, grand dame Clairee, sarcastic curmudgeon (with a heart of gold) Ouiser and recent Christian convert Annelle.
Howard said directing “Magnolias” appealed to him after losing a friend, Robyn Griggs, to cancer recently. He explained that Griggs had a similar view of life as the central character in “Steel Magnolias,” Shelby.
“She epitomizes what we do in the theater,” he explained. “She wouldn’t want anyone to mourn, but to look at life like Shelby does; she’d rather have five minutes of happiness than a lifetime of nothing.”
The play was made into a hit movie in 1989, starring Sally Fields and Julia Roberts, with Olympia Dukakis, Darryl Hannah, Dolly Parton and Shirley MacLaine in supporting roles, as well Tom Skerritt, Dylan McDermott and Sam Shepard in roles not included in the play.
For a full review of the play, see the print edition of the Elkhorn Independent.