Steel Magnolias

Truvy Jones (center), played by Susan Reynolds Burdett, reacts to the photo inspiration that Shelby Eatenton, played by Miranda Reynolds-Powell, provides for her hair updo for her wedding day during the Spotlight Theater Players' performance of "Steel Magnolias" on Friday, March 29.

WALKER -- In 2011, the Spotlight Theater Players debuted with “Steel Magnolias.”

After going on a hiatus from big productions two years later, it only made sense to revisit the Louisiana-set play when the local acting company decided to return to the stage this year.

The result was worthy of an encore.

For three days, the Spotlight Theater Players gave audiences plenty of reasons to laugh, cry and cheer during a rousing four-show run of Robert Harling’s timeless play “Steel Magnolias” March 28-30 at the Old South Jamboree.

After focusing mostly on radio plays and World War II reenactments since 2013, STP founder Robert Reynolds said the acting group has been itching to get back to the stage.

It took a lot of work for that to happen.

Volunteers logged countless hours transforming the five-decade-old Walker music venue into “Truvy’s Beauty Spot,” where most of the play takes place. The cast of six actresses also held many late-night rehearsals under the direction of Melani Glascock, a gifted and talented theater teacher in Livingston Parish.

But now that the group’s first stage production in six years is complete, Reynolds said things couldn’t have gone much better.

“It surpassed what I was expecting,” he said. “Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. We were just hoping to break even and get our name out there and let people know we’re back, but the turnout and presale orders were better than what I had envisioned. It was a great weekend.”

Ticket buyers were treated to a renown play with a local flavor.

Set in a small town in northwest Louisiana, “Steel Magnolias” follows the story of a group of Southern women who regularly meet at their friend’s in-home beauty salon. Based on a true story, the play centers around the health complications of Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie, a character Harling based on his sister who suffered from Type 1 diabetes.

Miranda Reynolds Powell, a Denham Springs High graduate, played the lead role of Shelby, a part she wanted the first time STP performed “Steel Magnolias” eight years ago.

Joining her on stage were Casie McMurray, who played Shelby’s mother M’Lynn Eatenton; Susan Burdette, who played salon owner Truvy Jones; Helene Wall, who played the town’s former first lady Clairee Belcher; Marie Frederic, who played the rowdy Louisa “Ouiser” Boudreaux; and Ellen Heiman, who played the religious Annelle Dupuy-Desoto.

For each near three-hour show, the six actresses laughed, bickered, gossiped, sipped tea, talked about men, washed their hair and applied makeup. They also stuck together through the best and worst of times, celebrated new life, and grieved the passing of another.

The production stirred a range of emotions, Reynolds said. 

“Everybody loved it,” he said. “One gentlemen told me his wife takes him to theater performances all the time and he doesn’t like them, but he said this one was the best he had seen.

“The only negative was the popcorn bag,” Reynolds added with a laugh. “The bags were loud, so next time we’ll get buckets.”

Reynolds said his goal is for the next stage production to take place sometime in October. He also hopes that the group can pull off three productions in 2020 — one in the spring, one in the summer, and one in the fall.

Another wish is to completely cast out the next play with new actors and fresh faces to further his goal to make the Spotlight Theater Players — which attained non-profit status in March 2018 — a “true community theater.”

“We want to get everyone involved, not just in the Denham Springs community, but the Livingston Parish community,” Reynolds said.

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