Mandi McCraw has always had big hair and a big personality, so perhaps it should no surprise that she has landed the role of Truvy in “Steel Magnolias.”
Having grown-up in her grandmother’s beauty salon, Magic Mirror in Hillsville, McCraw truly seems like a natural for the part played by Dolly Parton in the 1989 chick-flick classic based on the 1987 Robert Harling play of the same name. But competing for a part against at least 100 actresses, many of them with college training, seemed like a daunting task for the Carroll County native in the big city of Winston-Salem, N.C.
“My friend, Krista Murphy, sent me the link they were having auditions and I thought why not? So I went down for two nights of auditions, Friday and Saturday,” said McCraw. “When they called my name I was number 112 and I knew right then I wouldn’t get a part.”
McCraw, who serves as marketing director for Young & Associates, which owns the Shoney’s franchise, said she was on her way home after the first night of auditions when she got a callback to return the following day to read part of the script again. On the way home Saturday after the second round of auditions, she got a call she never expected.
“I was on the way home and they offered me the part of Truvy right them, which is amazing because that is Dolly Parton’s role and she is my hero. We immediately jumped into rehearsals so I feel like my time growing up at grandma’s beauty shop prepared me for this role,” said McCraw of her grandmother Mary Ann Combs. “I was shocked when they offered me the part. It has been a great experience. Being in the beauty shop my whole life and always feeling like the bigger the hair the closer to God, this has been a great experience.”
“Steel Magnolias” debuted this past weekend at Little Theatre of Winston-Salem to sold-out crowds in the 500-seat theatre. Ironically, McCraw said she never did theater until she got out of college and returned to Hillsville. It began with the Arts Council of Galax’s productions of Nunsense 1 and 2, which is when McCraw said she fell in love with acting. Since that time she has appeared in Frank Levering’s “Thunder in the Hills” series, Dixie Swim Club and Bee Hive. She has also helped direct the children’s production Jungle Book and helped teach a couple of children’s theater classes.
“This is the biggest production I have been a part of and the people in Winston are a lot more involved in theater. One of the girls in the play went to college and studied theater and the director studied theater,” McCraw said. “In my eyes they are the professionals and I am the amateur. It has just been an honor to be with them.”
“Steel Magnolias” has always been a favorite of McCraws growing up. She said the older she has gotten, the more real the characters in the play have become for her.
“I look at Ouiser and Clariee and I think, ‘Hey, I know this people,’” McCraw said. “And my mom and I have had health concerns and it parallels a lot of the story. It just fell perfectly into place.”
The show debuted this past Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Winston-Salem. It will be performed again nightly Sept. 14-16 at 7:30 p.m. each night and again on Sept. 17 at 2 p.m. The show lasts two hours and 30 minutes with one intermission. Cost is $27.50 and more information can be found at www.thelittletheatreofws or by calling the box office for tickets at (336) 725-4001.
“The first weekend was absolutely amazing. We had a packed house every night. The theater will hold just over 500 and to have that many people erupt with laughter is an amazing feeling,” McCraw said. “I have thoroughly enjoyed myself and I realize how blessed I am because in the first three shows already we had about 70 people drive from Hillsville to come see the show. We even had some friends come up from Alabama, so I am very lucky.”
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN