Central Alberta Theatre stages Steel Magnolias

Next up for Central Alberta Theatre is the much-loved production Steel Magnolias, opening Nov. 1 at City Centre Stage.

Written by Robert Harling, the shows continues through Nov. 16, with curtain at 7:30 p.m. There is also a matinee on Nov. 10 at 2 p.m.

Directed by Albertus Koett, the show stars Tori Grebinski, Trina Penner, Jennifer Barritt, Angel Paulsen, Beryl Starke and Vicky Dykes.

Steel Magnolias is a comedy–drama about the bond among a group of southern women in Louisiana. The title suggests the “Female characters are as delicate as magnolias but as tough as steel.”

Still performed worldwide to this day, the play has been translated in 17 languages, including Japanese, Chinese, French, Swedish, Spanish, Italian. Shortly after writing the story, Harling went on to adapt the screenplay for the film version of the play produced in 1989 starring Sally Field and Julia Roberts.

“People may come to see the show because of their memories of the movie, but then they will enjoy our version right off the bat,” explains Koett. “We really approached it from the angle of let’s just mount what is on the page.”

The action centres on Truvy’s beauty parlour and the women who regularly gather there. The story begins on the morning of Shelby’s wedding to Jackson and covers events over the next three years, including Shelby’s decision to have a child despite having Type 1 diabetes and the complications that result.

There is also a glimpse of the unlikely friendship between Clairee and Ouiser; Annelle’s transformation from a shy, anxious newcomer in town to a good-time girl and then to a revival-tent Christian and Truvy’s relationships with the men in her family.

Although the main storyline involves Shelby, her mother M’Lynn and Shelby’s medical battles, the underlying group-friendship among all six women is prominent throughout. The stage version is all set in the hair salon, and only the six women are featured as opposed to the film which of course has many sets and additional characters.

Koett said in perusing what to direct this season for CAT, he wanted to try a female-themed show. “I asked my wife, what do you think I could do that is an all female show, and the first thing that came to her mind was Steel Magnolias. So I decided to do it. CAT got me a copy of the script, and I really liked it. The characters are very dynamic and seemed to jump off the page.”

Koett also credits his cast with empowering the production that much more.

“The old adage is 80 to 90 per cent of a director’s job is casting. It’s a fantastic cast – these ladies are very talented. It’s been such an easy process to work with them – right from when they came into auditions. I could see each of them in specific roles, and each of them has made their parts their own. It’s been fun to watch.”

Those familiar with the story know that it covers a significant range of emotions, from sharply-crafted comedy to poignant, heart-breaking drama.

“Our cast just took it on and we worked through things. I didn’t feel at any point like we were struggling. There were moments of going through a lot of the emotion and the sadder moments that we rehearsed a lot, but it was only to familiarize ourselves with it and make it all sink in a little bit more. It’s all part of the process,” explains Koett.

Ultimately, he also hopes audiences see the closeness of the actors as they portray such vibrant characters.

“To me, the play is not about a particular person. It’s about this group of ladies. I hope people can sense that togetherness.”

Tickets are available at the Black Knight Inn Ticket Centre by calling 403-755-6626 or visiting www.blackknightinn.ca.