Volcano players head to the South

Margaret Lewis, left, Kimberly Seelos, Ella Henry, Debi Brodi, Michaela Key and Kathleen Harmon have some fun in Truvy’s Salon in “Steel Magnolias.”

“After a long, cold winter, we’re all ready for a little spring and Volcano Theatre Company has just the ticket …” says a release from the troupe. It opens “Steel Magnolias” on April 12 at the intimate Cobblestone Theatre in Volcano.

Robert Harling’s comedy-drama zeroes in on Truvy’s Beauty Salon, where new hire Annelle makes an interesting pot of coffee and is told, “There is no such thing as natural beauty.”

Truvy’s is THE place to get your hair done in Chinquapin, La., and the salon is where a tightly knit group of Southern women gathers to share the ups and downs of their lives over a two-year period, by way of gossip, laughter, fierce banter, recipes, beauty tips and witty repartee.

Shop owner Truvy, played by Kim Seelos (seen as the Queen of Hearts screaming “Off with their heads” in last year’s VTC production of “Alice in Wonderland”), is the center of this beauty universe, deploying her sometimes-too-honest yet constant advice with humor and a desire to care for everyone.

Ella Henry, age 16, plays Annelle, the new girl in town who is slowly but surely finding herself.

Margaret Lewis, who played Grace in 2018’s “Voices,” portrays Clairee, the former mayor’s wife and the town grand dame, who loves high school football only because her husband did, but says, “It’s hard to parlay that into a reason to live.”

Volcano Theatre Company President Kathleen Harmon takes on the fun role of curmudgeonly Ouiser (pronounced “Weezer”), who considers “No parking” signs a form of yard art. M’Lynn is played by Debi Brodi, who hasn’t appeared on a Volcano stage since the hilarious 2012 production of “Noises Off.” M’Lynn balances her protective mother instincts with fears for her daughter’s future.

Volcano Theatre newcomer Michaela Key plays M’Lynn’s daughter Shelby, who is planning a wedding, a family, a life and a future, despite squaring off against diabetes.

Harling has said that before the play or the 1989 movie existed, “Steel Magnolias” “was simply a description of Southern women. It means something that appears delicate and fragile, but wields unexpected strength.”

It was the 1985 death of his sister, Susan Harling-Robinson from diabetic complications, that inspired him to write the play. It opened off-Broadway, but was an instant hit and moved to Broadway for three years. Success on the Great White Way was then followed by the film that starred Sally Field, Julia Roberts, Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis, Dolly Parton and Daryl Hannah. The movie won a People’s Choice Award for Favorite Dramatic Motion Picture, and earned Roberts her first Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe.

The Volcano Theatre Company production of “Steel Magnolias” marks the directorial debut of Amber Adams, who joined the troupe in 2013, when her daughter, Kate, played Toto in “The Wizard of Oz” and she’s been hooked ever since. Amber attributes her love of theater to her father when, while barely a teenager, she found his copy of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare” and spent countless summer days acting out the plays.

“Steel Magnolias” plays at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays from April 13 to May 18 at the theater at 16146 Main St., Volcano. Tickets are $18 and $20 at volcanotheatre.net. Because the Cobblestone Theatre is fairly small, early advance reservations are strongly recommended.

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