YORK Stage kick off their 2020 season with Robert Harling’s comedy-drama Steel Magnolias at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York.
Running in the John Cooper Studio from February 19 to 22, this 1987 American play focuses on the camaraderie of six Southern women who talk, gossip, jest and harangue each other through the best of times and comfort and repair one another through the worst.
“Steel Magnolias is alternately hilarious and touching with six female characters that are all as delicate as magnolias yet as strong as steel,” says director Nik Briggs.
His cast comprises Joanne Theaker as M’Lynn; Louise Henry as Shelby; Julie-Anne Smith as Ousier; Sandy Nicholson as Clairee; Kathryn Addision as Truvy and Carly Morton as Annelle.
Yorkshire actress Joanne Theaker returns to the York Stage company, having led the cast as Maria in The Sound Of Music at the Grand Opera House last April.
Previously, Joanne has played Sister Mary Roberts in Sister Act; Diva in Priscilla Queen Of The Desert – The Musical; Judy in Dolly Parton’s 9 To 5 The Musical and Paulette in Legally Blonde. Elsewhere, she has performed at Hull Truck Theatre in the original casts of John Godber’s Thick As a Brick and Big Trouble In The Little Bedroom and at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, in Neil Simon’s They’re Playing Our Song.
Louise Henry joins rehearsals after making her professional debut as Snow White in this winter’s Grand Opera House pantomime, Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs. Previously, for York Stage Musicals, she had performed in The Sound Of Music as Liesl last April and Twilight Robbery as Jayne in May. West End actress Julie-Anne Smith last appeared for York Stage Musicals as Violet in 9 To 5 in 2017.
Briggs says: “Bringing Steel Magnolias to the stage, and working with these six women especially, has been a joy. It’s no secret that I love working with strong women, especially in the rehearsal room and you don’t get much stronger than these six.
”Having previously directed many female-led shows – Sister Act, Legally Blonde, 9 To 5, The Sound Of Music, Be My Baby and Little Voice – Steel Magnolias has been on my ‘To Do’ list for a long time.”
The women’s closeness drew Briggs to Harling’s piece. “It’s relatable, the salon is a world in itself and the six characters are an adopted family,” he says. “They laugh, cry, argue, support and challenge each other within this world and it really allows for the drama and comedy to flourish and soar.
“We’ve had tears of laughter and tears of sadness over the rehearsal period. This really is a show to see with your closest girl friends and family. Come, laugh and cry together, and if you want to wear pyjamas and bring a large carton of ice cream with you for the ultimate girly ‘night in-out’, we won’t judge!”
Harling was inspired to write Steel Magnolias, his first play, after his sister Susan died of complications from diabetes. Premiered off-Broadway at the WPA Theater in 1987, it quickly transferred to Broadway, where it became an instant sensation, running for three years and spawning the hit movie starring Dolly Parton, Julia Roberts, Sally Field, Daryl Hannah, Olympia Dukakis and Shirley MacLaine.
York Stage in Steel Magnolias, John Cooper Studio, Theatre @41 Monkgate, York, February 19 to 22, 7:30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Tickets: £15, concessions £13, at yorkstagemusicals.com, on 01904 623568 or in person from the York Theatre Royal box office. “We shall be supporting York and District Diabetes UK Group throughout the run,” says director Nik Briggs.