It was a box office smash 20 years ago. Now, Cresson Lake Playhouse is bringing its own production of "Steel Magnolias" to its stage in Loretto.
"It makes you laugh, it makes you cry and makes you laugh again," CLP Executive Director Elaine Mastalski said. "Women just fall in love with this kind of show. It's a wonderful production."
The show will be performed at 8 p.m. Thursday through Sept. 5 and Sept. 8 through 12 and 2 p.m. Sept. 6.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
The cast of Cresson Lake Playhouse’s production of “Steel Magnolias” includes: (from left) Jackie Young-Flack as Clairee Belcher, Patty Coyle as Ouiser, Beth Hurley as Annelle Dupuy-Desot, Dale Culp as M’Lynn Eatenton and Tracey Ingold as Truvy.
The comedy-drama's storyline revolves around six women who regularly gather at a quaint, well-kept beauty shop in a small northwest Louisiana town to "gossip and giggle while preparing one another for life's little tragedies and triumphs," according to the show's press release.
Though the women are vastly different in many respects, they forge a bond of friendship and love that changes their lives forever.
Mastalski said the six-member, all-female cast features beginners right through to seasoned actresses. The ensemble features Tracey Ingold of Cresson, Dale Culp of Hollidaysburg, Beth Hurley and Ashley Miller of Ebensburg and Patty Coyle and Jackie Young-Flack of Johnstown.
If you go:
What: Cresson Lake Playhouse presents "Steel Magnolias"
When: 8 p.m. Thursday through Sept. 5 and Sept. 8 through 12 and 2 p.m. Sept. 6
Where: Cresson Lake Playhouse, 279 Shapiro Road, Loretto
Admission: $17 for adults and $10 for children younger than age 12
More information: Call 472-4333, send e-mail to CressonLakePlayhouse@verizon.net or visit www. CressonLake.com
"These women have put a lot of hours into rehearsing for this," Mastalski said. "I think they're outstanding, and I'm very proud of them."
The original movie, which starred silver screen divas Dolly Parton, Darryl Hannah, Julia Roberts, Shirley MacLaine, Sally Field and Olympia Dukakis, might be a tough act to follow for a small community theater, but CLP is more than ready to pick up the thespian gauntlet.
"I keep saying to them, they can be better than the actresses in the movie," Director Robin Reese said. "I've invited them to think that the movie is not the end - that they have so much more to bring to it."
Reese, an assistant professor of theater arts at Penn State Altoona whose past directing credits include CLP's "Chase Me, Comrade!" and Penn State Altoona's "Big Love" in 2008, said the trick to pulling off such a monstrous theatrical feat is being honest and creative.
"I just try to create an environment for the actors whereby they feel supported and feel free to be gutsy and truthful," she said. "I try to give them freedom and help them to grow wings."
Ingold, 43, rarely gets a chance to audition for plays because of the time she puts in as house manager for CLP. But this is one show she couldn't stay away from.
"This is really one I wanted to audition for," she said. "I'm very grateful to be a part of this cast and a part of this production. I'm very excited."
She plays the part of Truvy, the outspoken, wise-cracking 40-something beauty shop owner. "She likes to hear about romance through the younger ladies who come into the shop," Ingold, who appeared in last summer's CLP production of "High School Musical," said of her character.
"It's like the old-time barbershop atmosphere, where the ladies all come to hear the latest gossip. Truvy's the ringleader of all that. She's a very fun character. I think she'd probably be a friend of mine. ... I wish she lived in Cresson - I'd go to her shop."
It wasn't until recently that she made the connection with the play's title, which suggests the female characters are "as delicate as magnolias but as tough as steel," she said.
"These women are completely different, but they all support one another through life's struggles," she said. "I think that's beautiful to see, and something for the audience to reflect on."
Twenty-three-year-old Beth Hurley is gearing up for her first-ever performance on a theater stage. She plays the part of 19-year-old beauty shop assistant Annelle Dupoy Desoto. She described her character as "very reserved and religious" - and "very lost."
"There's a mystery as to why she is the way she is," she said. "All you know is that she's had a very rough past. Truvy becomes like her mother figure - her mentor - and helps her to find herself and get her life back in order until she finds her church."
Hurley regards her stage debut with a mix of nerves and excitement, but she's looking forward to fulfilling a long-time desire to act.
"I've always wanted to be in a play," she said. "This is the first time I actually went to audition, and I just happened to get the part. I was actually shocked when I found out. People in my family have been in plays, but I never have myself. Everyone has been really supportive."
Mastalski said ticket sales for the show have been strong but sporadic.
"Some days we get inundated, and some days we're kind of slow," she said. "But I'm sure we'll have great crowds with this production - a lot of women identify with this show."
But ultimately, the show transcends gender lines.
"I think, at first, that men might cringe. But if they go, I think they'll totally enjoy it," Reese said. "They'll understand their wives, daughters, sisters and mothers so much more after this. It's not a male-bashing play, and men will not be offended. ... Life, death, love and sex - those aren't gender-specific issues. The play is universal. It's very funny and very touching, and that's why I love it."
Mirror Staff Writer Jimmy Mincin is at 946-7460.