'Steel Magnolias' opens in St. Petersburg

The American Stage production has an African-American cast

May 22, 2014 

"Steel Magnolias" is better known as a film than a play, thanks to the 1989 movie version and its phenomenal cast that featured Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine, Dolly Parton, Daryl Hannah, Julia Roberts and Olympia Dukakis.

But it started life on stage, and has been a staple in local and regional theaters since 1987. It had a strong staging just last year at Players Theatre in Sarasota.

Now it's coming to American Stage in St. Petersburg, with a bit of a twist: The entire cast is made up of African-American women.

That shouldn't make a substantial difference to the funny and poignant story about a group of small-town Southern woman who hang out at a local beauty parlor.

The story unfolds around one of the younger women in the group who has diabetes and who has been warned by doctors not to get pregnant because it could cause kidney damage. She eventually chooses to get pregnant anyway.

There are some differences between the film and stage versions. The film has additional characters and locales. The play includes only the six women friends, and takes place entirely in the beauty shop.

"Steel Magnolias" has actually been turned into a film three times. The most recent was a 2012 TV movie that starred Queen Latifah, Alfre Woodard, Phylicia Rashad and Jill Scott.

Details: May 21-June 15, American Stage, 163 Third St. N., St. Petersburg. Show times: 8 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $29-$59. Information: 727-823-7529, americanstage.org.

-- Marty Clear

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