YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Those who come to see Hopewell Theatre’s production of “Steel Magnolias” might feel like they’ve walked into an old-school beauty salon by mistake.
“You’ll walk in and think, ‘What time was my appointment,’ ” says Regina Rees, executive director of the Hopewell. For the sake of authenticity, the theater borrowed beauty shop equipment from a local trade school – two salon chairs, a chair for drying hair and a shampoo chair.
A technical adviser was brought in to show two actors how to do hair and manicures.
“We wanted it to look authentic,” Rees says. “It takes place in the 1980s and we want it to look like it.”
The comedy-drama play opens Oct. 28 and runs for two weekends. The show was originally scheduled to open in August but was postponed because of ongoing construction work at the theater that includes a handicapped-accessible ramp to the main entrance. Temporary wooden steps have been built as work continues.
Rees calls “Steel Magnolias” a modern classic.
To director Matthew Mazurowski, it’s an opportunity that plays to a strength.
“Knowing the talent pool of female actors in town, it is an ideal show,” he says. “They don’t always get an opportunity to [portray] strong characters. Plus, audiences know and love the show and will support it.”
The cast includes Pat Foltz, Stephanie Cambro, Elise Vargo, Maria Petrella-Ackley, Jeanine Rees and Emilia Sherin.
A seriocomedy with well-drawn characters, “Steel Magnolias” takes place in a beauty parlor in a small-town in Louisiana.
“It is funny, funny, funny and then something sad happens,” Rees says. “It’s about a group of women sharing their lives with each other but men will like it, too.”
Playwright Robert Harling “did an excellent job,” Mazurowski says. “You get to know the characters, the pathos they go through.”
Even the closest relationships were strained during the pandemic and the play “will remind audiences of this idea of long-term friendship and love … of knowing someone’s quirks and foibles and being there for them.”
Mazurowski directed “20th Century Blues” at the Hopewell last season, which has some similarities to “Magnolias.”
“Both have a strong cast of winning female characters, but they are very different types of shows,” he said. “‘Magnolias’ has eccentric characters that are a great deal of fun to play. We are leaning into the comedy but making sure they remain three-dimensional characters.”
Show times for “Steel Magnolias” are 7:30 p.m. Oct. 28 and 29, and Nov. 4 and 5; and 2 p.m. Nov. 6.
Tickets are $15 ($12 for seniors and students) and can be purchased at HopewellTheatre.org or by calling 330 746 5455. The theater is 702 Mahoning Ave.
Pictured: The cast of Hopewell Theatre’s production of “Steel Magnolias” includes (front row) Maria Petrella and Pat Foltz; and (back row) Jeanine Rees, Elise Vargo, Emelia Sherin and Stephanie Cambro.