‘Steel Magnolias’ comes to Kearney Blackbox Theater | Entertainment

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KEARNEY — High school students, with performances delicate as magnolias but strong a steel, will bring the beloved 80s classic “Steel Magnolias” to the Blackbox Theater at Kearney High School starting Monday, March 28.

Many know the tale of the small group of southern women who share close bonds of friendship from the 1989 silver screen adaptation starring Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis, Sally Field, Julia Roberts and Darryl Hannah. But, “Steel Magnolias” was originally a stage play by American playwright Robert Harling, who wrote the screenplay after the play’s 1987 off-Broadway premiere.

“It’s based on his experience with his sister’s death. The play is a comedy-drama about the bond among a group of Southern women in northwest Louisiana,” states a school release about the spring play.

Senior Heidi Eberhardt, a veteran to Kearney High School productions who recently played Cinderella in the high school musical, takes on the role of Shelby Eatenton Latcherie.

“She’s very spunky and she’s very spoiled, but she still is the sweetest person you’ll ever meet,” said Eberhardt. “She’s a fighter and I like that about her. I relate to that a lot.”

Fellow veteran high school thespian Jessica Riley, who has played Mrs. Peacock in the school’s Blackbox Theater production of “Clue” and who has been part of the youth cast of Kansas City Repertory Theatre, said this role, where she plays Shelby’s mother M’Lynn Eatenton, is special.

“It’s special to be able to see to them live. Everything is just so real and true to life,” she said.

Ellarie Haggarty, who plays the sharp-tongued Ouiser, knew she had big shoes to fill for the role made famous in the film adaptation by MacLaine.

“You get the typical old grandma who is grumpy, but she is a step above. She’s an eccentric grandma who is her own person but is also grumpy. … There’s no one like her,” said Haggarty. “It really stressed me out when I got cast as Ouiser because I really wanted Ouiser, but being Ouiser also entailed that I needed to know cues for jokes and I needed to really sting the jokes.”

Nathalia Rosero relates to her character Annelle (played by Hannah in the film) as a newcomer to a small town. Rosero is a foreign exchange student from Ecuador attending Kearney High School this year while staying with a host family in Liberty.

“The thing I love most about Annelle is that she starts as a new girl, a shy new girl, but just in a couple of moments she is part of that amazing world where they have that kind of family that they have, the kind of friends that they have,” she said. “It has a great development for a character.”

Before being cast in the high school production, Rosero said she had not seen the film that garnered Roberts an Oscar nomination and won a slew of other awards.

“After I got the role, … my housemother told me that it was her favorite movie ever, so she bought it for me and made me watch it and I can say I fell in love with it,” said Rosero.

While previously part of the high’s ensemble in “Cinderella,” Claire Walker, who plays Clairee Belcher, said this role means not a lot of singing, but a chance to act a lot more.

Wise-cracking Truvy Jones, who owns the beauty shop that serves a main backdrop for the play, is played by stage newcomer Hailey Parker. The role resonates with her, because Truvy, like her, is “naturally happy and looks at the positive side of things.”

Having an audience close to her in an intimate setting like the Blackbox Theater for her first play, Parker said doesn’t make her nervous. Rather, she “feels better” the audience will be there, personally taking the journey her character does with her.

As the theater only seats 85, those wishing to attend are encouraged to purchase tickets early.