TRAVERSE CITY — Denni Don Hunting first saw “Steel Magnolias” at the Cherry County Playhouse in 1990.
She liked it so much that company executive director Neil Rosen gave her complimentary tickets to see it again.
“At the time I had a diabetic daughter who had given birth to a son, my grandson,” said Hunting, director of an upcoming Old Town Playhouse version of the show. “I knew exactly what characters M’Lynn and Shelby were going through because it was a high-risk pregnancy.”
The two-act drama by Robert Harling opens May 2 on the Old Town Playhouse Mainstage. It revolves around the lives and friendship of six small-town southern women in the 1980s, particularly Shelby, who struggles with Type 1 diabetes, and her mother, M’Lynn.
“The only setting is Truvy’s beauty shop,” said Hunting, adding that special effects include running water for washing hair onstage. “It’s where they’ve spent every Saturday morning for 15 years. The men in their lives are important to the story, but you don’t see them.”
The OTP production stars newcomer Meaghan Jameson as Shelby, whose decision to have a baby despite the risks associated with her disease bring the women together as never before.
Jameson, a Traverse City marketing associate who made local headlines last fall for her Random Acts of Kindness road trip, played the part of Annelle in a high school production of the play.
“It’s fun to play someone different,” said Jameson, 24. “Shelby goes through a wide variety of emotions. She gets married, she has a baby, she gets sick. It’s been really fun but it’s definitely kept me on my toes. I haven’t ever done a role where I had to put as much intensity and research into getting it right.”
Then there was mastering a proper southern accent with the help of local dialect coach Diane Clark, formerly of Memphis, Tenn.