“STEEL MAGNOLIAS,” through June 1, Hale Centre Theatre Jewel Box Stage, 9900 S. Monroe St., Sandy (801-984-9000 or hct.org); running time: 2 hours and 40 minutes (one intermission)
SANDY — “Steel Magnolias” is a title that’s synonymous with “tear-jerker” in pop culture — and with good reason — but there’s so much more to it than that.
For one thing, it’s hilarious. And though most people may have heard of the 1989 film starring Julia Roberts, Sally Field and Dolly Parton, “Steel Magnolias” was originally written by Robert Harling as a play, which debuted in New York City in 1987. That play is running at the Hale Centre Theatre through June 1.
Harling wrote the play after his sister died of complications from diabetes, and he decided he wanted to share her story, according to a previous Deseret News article. The play takes place entirely in a beauty parlor, centered around six women in a small town in Louisiana.
The HCT production, coming out in the 30th anniversary year of the film and directed by Larry West, has you hiccuping with sobs one moment then laughing so hard your stomach hurts the next. The two Equity actors in the Monday/Wednesday/Friday cast, Teri Cowan and Jayne Luke, shine through in their particularly comedic roles as Clairee Belcher and Ouiser Boudreaux, respectively. Both make their characters feel well-rounded and authentic in their hilarity, and you soon forget you're watching a work of fiction.
Wednesday's opening night started out a little rough, with Truvy Jones (Michelle Linn Hall, Monday/Wednesday/Friday) and Annelle Dupuy-Desoto (Amy Ware, Monday/Wednesday/Friday) looking a little awkward alone onstage, their iffy Southern accents coming and going from one minute to the next. (My husband, from North Carolina, was particularly offended.) But once the full cast was onstage, the actresses began to feed off one another. By the end of the scene, they had immersed the audience in their world — they were now a part of the Truvy’s beauty parlor squad.
It just kept building from there. Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie (Madison Ford, Monday/Wednesday/Friday) and M’Lynn Eatenton (DeLayne Bluth Dayton, Monday/Wednesday/Friday) had excellent mother-daughter chemistry, and Dayton’s emotional moment in the last scene of the play lived up to what you hope it would be — a sob-fest, but one that felt earned and sincere.1 comment on this story
Fans of the movie shouldn’t be disappointed by this production. Of course there are differences between the two media, particularly that the play is limited to one set. But the set design is beautiful and realistic — a lot of hair is done right on that stage, with running water in a sink and everything. And there’s something special about the intimate connection an audience can make with the characters in a play that a film can never re-create.
HCT’s production of “Steel Magnolias” is genuine, heartfelt, funny and profound. It’s something you won’t want to miss.
Content advisory: "Steel Magnolias" contains mild swearing, thematic material and mild talk of sexual acts.