MEADVILLE — This past weekend “Steel Magnolias” opened on the Academy Theatre stage to very receptive audiences.
Many of those patrons may have come to see a live version of the famous film from 1989.
Directing and producing a show that has been made into a film is often a tricky endeavor that needs to be maneuvered delicately. Audience members can come in with expectations and ideas as to how the show should be performed. Performers can feel those pressures and want to form their characters based on those famous interpretations from the film.
The 1989 film has plenty of star power and wonderful performances to draw on, including such big name stars as Julia Roberts, Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine, Daryl Hannah, Olympia Dukakis and Dolly Parton, among many others. Undergoing a remake in 2012 starring Queen Latifah, “Steel Magnolias” is a story that has captivated audiences for decades.
The play that actually inspired the films presents the lives of six women who come together in the comfort of beauty salon chairs. The six each go through transformations and become different people as the years go by. In the warmth of the oven that is the salon, the women form deep bonds, laughing with each other when things are going well and leaning on one another when things are rough.
Featuring the same famous lines used in the film, audiences laugh and cry along with the women on stage, finding the humor in lines like, “take a whack at Ouiser,” or “if you don’t have anything nice to say about anybody, come sit by me,” or identifying with the passion of Shelby imploring to her mother, “I would rather have 30 minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.”
The idea of directing and performing these iconic moments can be a little intimidating at times, but I have found there is also an added responsibility and excitement that comes with it. This is a task the women of this cast are more than embracing.
“I have seen the movie over 100 times, and these ladies truly captured the essence of the characters,” said one patron after seeing the performance at the Academy last weekend.
The play, never leaving the setting of Truvy’s Beauty Shop, features one static set. The construction crew paid special attention to details and made it look as authentic as possible. You’ll see working blow dryer chairs, stylists actually doing hair and even washing each other’s heads in a functioning salon sink.
The six ladies in the Academy’s production of “Steel Magnolias” are using all of these tools, as well as their acting talents to recreate a world made famous in a film.
Using a unique combination of familiarity and fresh interpretations, the ladies take the stage again this weekend to create for the audience, a world many of them will recognize and feel at home entering.
“Steel Magnolias” runs for three more performances, tonight and Saturday, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, at 2 p.m. There is a fee.
For tickets or more information, call (814) 337-8000, between noon and 5 p.m., or visit theacademytheatre.org to order tickets any time.
Lapping is the show’s director.