The cast of “Steel Magnolias” rehearses at May River Theatre. The play will run Feb. 25-27 and March 4-6 at the theatre. CHRISTA FORTNEY

Southern women have long gravitated toward the beauty shop to connect with friends, share some gossip, have a glass of something – and get their hair done.

In “Steel Magnolias,” onstage Feb. 25-27 and March 4-6 at May River Theatre in Bluffton, viewers can get an inside scoop on how precious life can be among small-town confidants.

On Shelby Eatonton’s wedding day, the bride and her mother, along with friends, descend on Truvy’s Beauty Spot in Chinquapin Parish, La., for final touch-ups and the low-down.

As the story unfolds, magnolia blossoms and gunfire cause anxiety, a young woman finds a job and a husband in a new town, two old broads trade jabs that cement their friendship, and a mother and daughter come to terms with difficult decisions.

The play was written (in 10 days) by Robert Harling, a native of Natchitoches, La., about his mother, his sister and their friends during an uncertain time in their lives. Harling said he could “just hear those women” as they traded insults and jokes, lifted up one another, screamed a little, and eventually found solace in one another.

The title of the play is a nod to the Southern women Harling knew who are like the beautiful, delicate magnolia (the state flower of Louisiana), and yet tough as steel.

The play had a successful run off-Broadway in 1987. It was adapted into a movie by the same name in 1989, with an extended storyline and a cast of well-known actors in the lead roles.

The cast, directed by Liz McGinnis, includes Julie Siebold as Shelby; Christine Grefe as M’Lynn, Shelby’s mother; Tracy Butts as the effervescent and nosy Truvy; Izzy Madden as “the new girl” Annelle; Margaret Oehlert as Clairee, the stylish former mayor’s wife; and Lynne Hummell as Ousier, the crusty curmudgeon.

Christa Fortney is assistant director, with Ellie Friedman as stage manager.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary season, May River Theatre was founded by Ed and Jodie Dupuis in 2002. “Steel Magnolias” was produced during that first season. This all-new cast and crew, as well as the board of directors, honor the memory of the founders with this production.

Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 25-26 and March 4-5; and 2 p.m. Feb. 27 and March 6. Tickets are $25 each and are available online at or by calling 843-815-5581. Seating is general admission.

The theatre is located in Ulmer Auditorium at Bluffton Town Hall, 20 Bridge St. in Old Town.