Lyceum Theatre Will Be Hothouse for Steel Magnolias

News   Lyceum Theatre Will Be Hothouse for Steel Magnolias Laughter will roll and tears will flow at the Lyceum Theatre come spring, when Steel Magnolias takes root there, marking the Broadway debut of Robert Harling's popular play.

Previews begin March 15, 2005, toward an opening of April 4. Jason Moore (Avenue Q) directs the production.

Complete casting has not been announced, although Delta Burke and Christine Ebersole have been confirmed.

Burke ("Designing Women," Thoroughly Modern Millie) will play Truvy, who runs the beauty parlor where the play is set, and Ebersole (42nd Street) will play M'Lynn, whose daughter Shelby is the focus of the play, set in modern-day Louisiana.

"Scores of actresses" are still auditioning to play the other four strong Southern women who inhabit the comedy-drama, according to the producers.

The 1987 Off-Broadway play blossomed in regional theatre and became a starry hit movie (with Dolly Parton as Truvy, Sally Field as M'Lynn and Julia Roberts as Shelby). Robert Harling has said in the past that he wrote the play in a short time period, basing it on real-life characters and events in his family and hometown.

Shelby's marriage, pregnancy and well-being are all addressed in the play. The title refers to the genteel but tough ladies who spar with — and support — each other.

Marsha Mason and Frances Sternhagen are among the many names being bandied about for roles in the production.

Roy Gabay and Robyn Goodman are producing the Broadway production.

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Steel Magnolias concerns the gossip and affection swapped at a beauty shop in Natchitoches, Louisiana (pronounce it "nack-a-tush"), as the daughter of a beloved customer heads toward marriage and motherhood. Prior to its long run at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, Steel Magnolias originated in New York at the WPA Theatre.

Hollywood actresses scrambled for parts in the film, and the roster eventually included Daryl Hannah, Dolly Parton, Olympia Dukakis, Shirley MacLaine, Sally Field and Julia Roberts (with actors Sam Shepard, Tom Skerritt and Dylan McDermott filling out roles only mentioned in the play).

The small-cast, one-set play is a standard in stock, amateur and regional theatre. The property made playwright Harling a rich man and got him a Hollywood deal, too: He co-wrote the screenplay to 1991's "Soapdish."

Delta Burke is best known for playing self-interested, opinionated Suzanne Sugarbaker on the hit series, "Designing Women." Burke's other television credits include "Delta" and "Women of the House" (both produced by her own production company, Perseverance, Inc.), "DAG," "Filthy Rich," "First and Ten," as well as a recurring role on "Popular" and recent guest appearances on "Touched by an Angel," "Promised Land," "Any Day Now" and "Family Law." Her television film credits include "Going for Broke" and "Dangerous Child" (both for Lifetime Television), "Melanie Darrow" (also producer), "Maternal Instincts" (also executive producer) and "A Promise to Carolyn." Her feature film credits include "What Women Want," "Sordid Lives" and "Good Boy!" She is the author of "Delta Style: Eve Wasn't a Size Six and Neither Am I!," published by St. Martin's Press. After representing Florida in the Miss America Pageant and winning a talent scholarship, Burke attended a two-year study program at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. Since 1989, she has been married to actor Gerald McRaney.

Recently in Talking Heads at the Minetta Lane Theatre, Christine Ebersole received a 2003 Tony nomination for her performance in Lincoln Center's recent production of Dinner at Eight. She also received a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical for her work as Dorothy Brock in the hit revival of 42nd Street. Ebersole's other Broadway credits include The Best Man, Getting Away with Murder, Harrigan 'n Hart, Camelot, Oklahoma!, On the Twentieth Century, I Love My Wife, Angel Street and the City Center Encores! productions of A Connecticut Yankee, Ziegfeld Follies of 1936, Lady in the Dark and Allegro.

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