Stylish `Magnolias'

April 20, 2006|By JESSICA BRANDT | JESSICA BRANDT,SUN REPORTER

The stars of the Vagabond Players' production of Steel Magnolias had to learn more than just their lines. Because the entire play takes place in a beauty shop, a number of the actresses had to learn how to style hair, too.

In contrast to the popular 1989 film, the play is set entirely in a small-town Louisiana beauty shop -- a warm and open environment that provides its patrons an opportunity to let their hair down.

Written by Robert Harling and based on the relationship between his mother and late sister, the play chronicles the story of six charming Southern women who support one another through a series of trials and triumphs.

FOR THE RECORD - In the Thursday and Friday editions of The Sun, the price of tickets for Steel Magnolias at the Vagabond Players, 806 S. Broadway, was incorrect. The tickets are $15.
The Sun regrets the error.

"It elicits a tremendous audience response both in terms of [its] humor and [emotion]," said director Steve Goldklang, who submitted the play to the Vagabond Players' selection committee.

"It's very witty and clever but also ultimately becomes very moving as it details [a powerful] mother-daughter relationship and the relationships of six women of very diverse backgrounds [who] form another kind of family," he said.

Reproducing a working beauty parlor on stage posed a remarkable set-design challenge for this 100-seat theater.

"It's one of few plays to require working water on stage," said Vagabond publicist Shirley Bell, "We had to create a whole working beauty shop."

Roy Steinman and Tony Colivito, who work regularly with Goldklang and the Vagabond Players, were brought in to tackle the assignment.

"[They have] been building sets for a long time for all of the Baltimore theaters," said producer Barb Gehring.

Together with co-producer Marie Kuchta, Gehring has spent the past weeks forging connections with local beauty shop owners in a search for real salon equipment.

"We want to have the production look as authentic as possible," she said.

To this end, the company also has contracted a local beautician to train its actresses in the trade -- especially those who will be hairdressing on stage.

"The tricky part for the actresses is that all of this has to be very carefully choreographed and timed out," Goldklang said. Thus, during the rehearsal process, the women not only had to learn their lines, but also learn a new craft.

Steel Magnolias opens tomorrow at the Vagabonds in Fells Point as part of the Vagabond Players' 90th season. The production will feature performances by Lynda McClary as M'lynn, Laurel Burggraf as her daughter Shelby and Holly Pasciullo as salon owner Truvy. Jessica Feldman, Nona Porter and Binnie Ritchie Holum round out the cast in the roles of Annelle, Clairee and Ouiser.

Steel Magnolias will run tomorrow-May 21 at Vagabond Players, 806 S. Broadway. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $25 ($2 discount for seniors and full-time students). For information, contact 410-563-9135.

jessica.brandt@baltsun.com

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