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Published Sep. 9, 2009

You know so many lines from the classic 1989 flick, Steel Magnolias, by heart.

"Miss Truvy, I promise that my personal tragedy will not interfere with my ability to do good hair.''

"The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize.''

"Well, you know what they say: If you don't have anything nice to say about anybody, come sit by me!''

The hilarious dialogue was enough to lock the movie deep into your consciousness years ago. And, if the lines didn't do it, then the all-star female lineup - Dolly Parton, Daryl Hannah, Olympia Dukakis, Julia Roberts, Sally Field and Shirley MacLaine - did.

But Linda Weir, the director of Eight O'Clock Theatre's rendition of the play, believes the story is worth repeating.

"The beauty of Steel Magnolias is that it is reality,'' said Weir, who also directed last season's Pajama Game. "You've got laughter, but for all the laughter, there's an underlying sadness too. It's life. It's not frivolous.''

Steel Magnolias, which will begin its run at the Largo Cultural Center on Friday, is set in a beauty shop somewhere in Louisiana. It is based on the 1987 off-Broadway play written by Robert Harling and on the author's experience with the death of his sister.

At the center of the story, is a young girl, Shelby, played by Holly Weber. She struggles with type 1 diabetes and yearns for a house full of children.

When planning the direction of Steel Magnolias, Weir aimed for realism.

How real did Weir get?

On stage, the sinks inside Truvy's Beauty Salon have running water. When the women get their hair washed, the audience will hear and see running water.

Weir coordinated on-the-job-training for Lynne Coleman, who plays Truvy, so she could truly style hair.

"We visited Rocco Morabito's hair salon in Safety Harbor," she said. "Rocco is a good friend to Eight O'Clock Theatre, and he agreed to show how to do hair. We wanted it so hair is actually being done on stage. Hair is actually set and put up in a style.''

And to help the audience enjoy the play without too many memories of the movie sneaking in, Weir made sure physical similarities weren't an issue.

For example, in the movie, Truvy was played by blond diva Dolly Parton. On stage, Coleman will wear a red wig.

"I thought it was important to move away from that blond hair,'' Weir said. "We'll see what happens with a red wig.''

Coleman, who last appeared at Eight O'Clock in Dearly Departed, likens putting on a new head of hair to slipping a hat on.

"The wig helps me," she said. "Like with a hat, you put it on, and you see yourself differently.

"The movie cannot be forgotten entirely. There will always be links, but what I hope for is the audience most of all can see this story for the incredible connection between the women.''

Reach Piper Castillo at or(727) 445-4163.

If you go

What: Steel Magnolias presented by Eight O'Clock Theatre. - Cast: Lynne Coleman as Truvy Jones; Kiersten Lyons as Annelle Dupuy-Desoto; Elaine Coffin as Clairee Belcher; Holly Weber as Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie; Kathy Richter as M'lynn Eatenton; Patricia Bates Smith as Oiser Boudreaux. - When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday; 8 p.m. Sept. 17, 18 and 19; 2 p.m. Sept. 20. - Tickets: $21 individuals; $19 group (more than 10); $16 students (19 and younger). - For more information: Call (727) 587-6793.