A little sass and a whole lot of hairspray

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‘Steel Magnolias’ starts 2-weekend run Friday

Anna Olson Times Herald Correspondent

Contributed Photo

Abrams Spotlight Productions cast members discuss the upcoming Christmas party during their rehearsal of “Steel Magnolias,” which opens Friday. From left are Ali DeWilde as Shelby, Brianna Gusick as Truvy, Janet Koehne as Annelle, and Pamela Loberger as Clairee.

Abrams Spotlight Productions Inc. will present eight performances of its summer show, “Steel Magnolias,” under the direction of Cate Kopkey, beginning Friday and continuing through Aug. 13.

The production at the Byng Community Theater in Abrams follows the lives of six women as they experience everyday life with equal parts sass, strength and style. And it all takes place in a beauty shop.

There was 1989 film version based on the play starring Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Julia Roberts, Shirley MacLaine, Daryl Hannah and Olympia Dukakis.

“It’s a little different from the movie,” cast member Julie Muenster said. “And those differences make it feel fresh. And with live theater, the audience will feel they’re right there in the room, hanging out with friends.”

The cast for “Steel Magnolias” includes Ali DeWilde as Shelby, Breanna Gusick as Truvy, Janet Koehne as Annelle, Pam Loberger as Clairee, Nannette Macy as M’Lynn, and Julie Muenster as Ouiser. It is four of the six leading ladies’ first time in an ASPI production.

“Each of the six characters in this production is a steel magnolia,” first-time ASPI performer Ali DeWilde said. “In other words, each of the women portrays both the daintiness and strength that define femininity, forming a beautiful balance. While many plays focus on one particular aspect of a person or group of people, ‘Steel Magnolias’ helps its audience to discover the beauty in balance.”

“It was written by a man (Robert Harling), but speaks to a woman’s soul,” Kopkey said. “Obviously, the show is a delightful mix between comedy and drama, but that’s what makes it so special. The characters we meet, show us their true selves; good, bad, and otherwise.”

Kopkey and her family are recent transplants to the area, and “Steel Magnolias” is her second production with ASPI. But Kopkey is no stranger to the stage. She previously taught music in Rice Lake, and she has been involved in shows such as “Les Misérables,” “The Last Five Years” and “The Sound of Music.”

For her first production with ASPI, cast member Nannette Macy said she looked forward to working under the direction of Kopkey.

“Cate has an exceptional reputation within the theater community for her leadership, insight, and intuitive ability to assist actors in digging into the nuances of each character’s personality and motivations, and from that, bring a depth of understanding and emotion to the stage; to tell the story better than it has been told before,” Macy said.

So, what can audiences expect when they attend the show?

“Audiences are sure to enjoy this production for a multitude of reasons, but what strikes me as most enjoyable, is how easy these characters are to relate to,” Kopkey said. “They are women in their truest, most unfiltered form, and don’t we all appreciate the reality of that from time to time?”