Steel Magnolias by Dubai Drama Group

The Courtyard Playhouse presents a comedy about love, friendship and life in Louisiana

The Courtyard Playhouse presents Dubai Drama Group’s production of Robert Harling’s Steel Magnolias, a comedy about love, friendship and life in Louisiana.

Steel Magnolias, a play by Robert Harling, became a global phenomenon when the movie starring Julia Roberts and Dolly Parton was released in 1989. The success of the film and its 2012 remake starring Queen Latifa are both testament to the story’s popularity. Dubai Drama Group (DDG) will stage its own production of Steel Magnolias at The Courtyard Playhouse from Thursday November 13 to Saturday 15.

In grieving for his sister Susan Robinson, Harling put his heart onto paper and in ten days penned this cathartic, beautiful memorial. Penny MacKenzie, director of DDG’s production of Steel Magnolias, says: ‘The play is a classic, everybody will be comfortable with it and know what they are getting. The women are feisty and strong and you are drawn to them. You see friendships develop across generations, which is lovely, and you can see that they support each other and are honest with each other.’

The funny, delicate, sad, uplifting play will warm your heart. The women are strong and feminine, fierce and supportive, and delightfully funny.

‘It’s a feel-good production. Obviously the subject matter is quite sad because it deals with mourning, but it’s also an uplifting play because there are very positive messages in it about a sense of community and what you can do for each other,’ says Penny.

The play sees six women come together in this hilarious and heart-warming story of life, love and loss in a small Louisiana town. At the centre of the group is Shelby Eatenton, newly married and joyfully pregnant, despite the fact that her diabetes could make childbirth life-threatening. Terrified and angry at the possibility of losing her only daughter, M’Lynn Eatenton looks to her four closest friends for strength and laughter as she battles her deepest fear of death in order to join Shelby in celebrating the miracle of new life.

Directed by husband and wife Penny and Bryan MacKenzie, DDG’s production features six talented actresses based in Dubai.

‘Auditions in Dubai are always very well attended by superbly talented women but there are few really great plays around that can cater for them. With a mind to finding such a show we felt that Steel Magnolias would fit the bill perfectly, to allow the talent that is in our city to be beautifully showcased,’ Penny says.

The bubbly salon owner, Truvy Jones, is played in true Southern style by Katherine Spry. The new-in-town Annelle Dupuy-Desoto is given quirky, gangly life by regular DDG performer Jennifer Stelco. Magda Abdou and Caroline Brooks play M’Lynn and Shelby Eatenton, who are a representation of Harling’s own mother and sister.

The curmudgeonly Ouiser (‘I have been in a bad mood for 40 years’), is played by Jane Killalea grumping about the stage, and the town’s ‘Grande Dame’ Clairee Belcher, played with flair and elegance by Ellen O’Flaherty, are a delightful double act.

Set in Truvy’s converted garage beauty shop, the play spans a time of about two years. As the show progresses, the audience is introduced to a community that you want to be a part of, that you can identify with, and that you will root for. ‘The play is set up over different seasons, so it covers spring [and goes] right through to Christmas,’ says Penny. ‘You can see the passage of time in the hair salon, as the characters all have different hairstyles and these show life-changing events. We have set the play in the ’80s, like the original, which is reflected in their make-up and costumes.’

Audiences will discover wells of love and the power of humour in healing, and the magnificent bond of true friendship. ‘The relationships are timeless. The issue of diabetic health is central to the plot and for those who are familiar with Steel Magnolias, a revisit will top up your heart. Those who are new to the show, be prepared to fall a little in love with these special characters,’ she adds.

The play’s enduring relevance most likely stems from a combination of its strong female characters, its themes of the power of sisterhood, and its witty, memorable script. The show includes some powerful emotional moments that can border on melodrama, but Harling’s script balances out the pathos with some wickedly funny lines.
Dhs80. Thursday November 13 7pm, Friday November 14 to Saturday 15 4pm, 7.30pm. The Courtyard Playhouse, Al Quoz. For tickets visit www.courtyardplayhouse.com

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