The cast of Arizona Broadway Theatre’s “Steel Magnolias” received firsthand information and instructions from their director about the ways of a beautician.
Before becoming a professional actor and director, Jimmy Ferraro worked for a number of years as a hairstylist in New York.
That experience helped him as the director of “Steel Magnolias,” where he taught the cast basic beauty-salon techniques, such as using pin curls and rollers or properly shampooing or combing hair.
“Many of those things were second nature to me, so when I directed some of those parts of the show I had to slow down because they aren’t real beauticians,” he said with a laugh.
Ferraro, who recently directed ABT’s “My Fair Lady,” said he hopes his knowledge elevates the play with even more realism.
“Being from that world will hopefully bring extra authenticity to this piece,” Ferraro said.
“Steel Magnolias” is a comedy-drama revolving around the friendships of a group of Southern women in a small Louisiana town.
The plot takes place at Truvy’s beauty parlor, which is built as an addition to her home. The play follows the lives of these six women over three years.
“These are real women that we meet in this beauty shop and that is why people love this show so much,” he said.
“I can almost guarantee you that we all know someone who is like every character.”
Robert Hartling, who wrote “Steel Magnolias,” based the story on experiences with the death of his sister. In Truvy’s beauty shop, the women talk about everything in their lives from weddings to divorces; babies to funerals and new beginnings to happy endings,
Even though there is some serious tone, Ferraro said the comedy balances out the show making it realistic.
“It’s about how we deal with the trials and tribulations of life, along with the long-lasting friendships,” he said.
In 1987, “Steel Magnolias” opened off-Broadway and ran for a little over two years. Later, a 2005 Broadway revival was introduced with Delta Burke, Marsha Mason and Christine Ebersole.
But most are familiar with the 1989 movie that starred Sally Fields, Dolly Parton, Julia Roberts, Daryl Hannah, Olympia Dukakis and Shirley MacLaine. With the extreme popularity of the film, Ferraro said it’s helped the play survived over the last two decades.
“There is nothing like the sensationalism of film to bring this work to national attention,” Ferraro said.
The play is still performed at a number of local and professional theater companies across the country.
More importantly, Ferraro said “Steel Magnolias” reveals the importance of beauty salon and barbershop culture.
Hairdressers and barbers are friends with many of their patrons, said Ferraro, who became close with some of his own clients.
“It’s an intimate experience when you’re shampooing their hair or doing their nails,” he said. “You really get to know a person, because it’s a relaxed atmosphere, and they let their hair down.”
In addition, he also likened it to a famous television show.
“It’s a gathering place like “Cheers,” where everyone knows your name,” he said with a laugh.