A show set in a salon that allows its clients to truly let down their hair is enjoying its second solidly popular local run in three years.

And Naomi Fleetwood Pyle, reprising her role of the crusty Ouiser in the comic “Steel Magnolias,” said she believes she knows why people are flocking back to the production.

“One reason is simply that people love dinner theater,” Pyle said of the comic production unfolding Friday through Sunday at WiLLow LeaVes of Hope. “Another reason is that it’s convenient, one-stop entertainment with a nice meal and a play at the same place.

“That’s a big part of the attraction.”

Story continues below gallery

In a world of entertainment hype, the phrase “back by popular demand” can seem as over-the-top as an elaborate updo for a church picnic. But the fact is that this comedy attracted 700 people in a previous dinner theater engagement in Hope in 2014 — and still left a waiting list of 200.

That waiting list — and area residents’ repeated questions since 2014 about a reprise to Pyle and director Pete Law — is why the story has returned locally, this time with a troupe with an official name of Actors Studio of Hope. The production focuses on the bond a group of women share in a small-town southern community, and how they deal with the death of one in their circle of friends.

Besides Pyle, director Law finds himself in his old role. So, too does Connie Kiviniemi-Baylor, repeating her portrayal of M’Lynn. The actress delivers a powerful monologue in the wake of one of the play’s most serious moments.

“When Connie does that, there’s not a dry eye in the place,” Pyle said. “She really can dig deep.”

Law, fresh from his second summertime training stint with The Second City acting troupe and school in Chicago, mentioned that this rerun of sorts finds him “better able to see and pinpoint key comedic points.”

Law and Pyle, who have led the Hope dinner theater scene for a few years now, hope they can build on the success of “Steel Magnolias” and also the most recent musical, “Always … Patsy Cline,” which attracted more than 600 people. That’s why the pair just completed compiling a full, six-show season for Actors Studio of Hope.

Next up in November will be “Cat On a Hot Tin Roof,” followed by “The Buddy Holly Story.”

“I’m not sure we’re going to reach that 700 (total tickets) figure again (for “Steel Magnolias”),” Pyle said. “But who knows — we could be close.”

Southern belles -- and belly laughs

What: Actors Studio of Hope’s dinner theater presentation of the comedy, “Steel Magnolias.”

When: 6 p.m. dinner and 7 p.m. play Friday and Saturday and on Sunday, 1 p.m. dinner and 2 p.m. play.

Where: Willow Leave of Hope, 326 Jackson St. on the historic Hope Town Square.

Tickets: $25 for dinner and the play. 812-546-0640.

Information: Facebook page for Willow Leaves of Hope.

Author photo
Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.