When I learned Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre would open the 2020 season — the 47th — with “Steel Magnolias,” I knew I had to see it. It’s a classic, and the opportunity to see the play performed locally couldn’t be missed.
The movie, based on the 1987 play by Robert Harling about his sister’s death from complications of type 1 diabetes, featured heavy hitters such as Dolly Parton, Sally Field, Julia Roberts, Olympia Dukakis and Shirley MacClaine. The movie (and the play) centers around the bond between the women, friends who live in Chinquapin, Louisiana. A remake with an all-Black cast done in 2012 introduced M’Lynn, Truvy, Ouiser, Shelby and Annelle to a whole new audience. This version also included an all-star cast — Phylicia Rashad, Alfre Woodard, Jill Scott and Queen Latifah.
I’ve seen both versions several times and even own the VHS of the original film. The actors in the performance at Beef and Boards didn’t miss a beat. They deliver the same level of comedic drama you’ve come to know in the classic movie. At times, I forgot I wasn’t watching Parton or Daryl Hannah on stage.
The play takes place in Truvy’s beauty salon. Unlike the movie, the play doesn’t venture outside of the salon, and we don’t get to see Shelby’s wedding or the infamous armadillo cake. The lack of the red velvet armadillo groom’s cake covered in gray icing was the only disappointment I had. Ouiser lopping off the tale of that cake is my favorite scene.
Even without my favorite scene, the play was a hit! M’Lynn’s monologue at the end almost brought tears to my eyes. It didn’t matter that I knew how the movie would end or that I’d heard it before. Diane Kondrat gave such a heartfelt performance and was so believable. For a second I thought her daughter really did die, and she wasn’t acting. It was powerful. Kudos to Kondrat.
“Steel Magnolias” is rated PG and will run through Feb. 2, giving you plenty of time to catch a show. You won’t regret it.
If you go:
• WHAT: Steel Magnolias
• WHERE: Beef And Boards Dinner Theatre, 9301 Michigan Road
• WHEN: Now through Feb. 2
• COST: $47.50-$72.50 available online or at the box office 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday
• INFO: beefandboards.com, 317-872-9664