‘Steel Magnolias’ premieres at Theater By The Bay NY in Bay Terrace this weekend

The women of Steel Magnolias
Photo courtesy of Theater By The Bay NY

A local Bay Terrace theater is putting on its spring production of “Steel Magnolias” this weekend, based on the critically acclaimed play and film of the same name.

Starting on Saturday, March 7, and for the next three weekends, audiences can come see the play at Theater By The Bay NY (TBTBNY). “Steel Magnolias” documents the friendships among a group of women living in Louisiana and the aftermath of dealing with the loss of one of their own.

Director Patrice Valenti is back for her third production with TBTBNY, with past credits including “Beau Jest” and ” Lost in Yonkers” by Neil Simon. “Steel Magnolias” marks TBTBNY’s 36th production since it started in 2004.

According to Valenti, she chose the Robert Harling play after a board member at the theater suggested the idea. She felt that the multi-generational cast and the story itself would appeal to a wide audience.

Valenti said that auditions for “Steel Magnolias” started around Thanksgiving and recalled that a “large volume of people” came to try out for roles.

“I didn’t realize that it was a ‘cult’ play or film,” said Valenti. The director added she hated turning actors down but casting came down to who had the best chemistry.

The final cast includes Annette Daiell (Clairee), Carol Berger Giorgio (Ouiser), Samantha Klinsky (Annelle), Rosemary Kurtz (M’Lynn), Nili Resnick (Shelby) and Liz Zimmermann (Truvy). The “tremendous” cast, in Valenti’s words” not only reflect the onstage chemistry of the characters but also have a great working relationship off stage.

“They all get along as people and it’s magical for me to see it on stage,” said Valenti.

The director said that there are no men in the play, which is the biggest difference between the stage and film versions. Harling wrote the play based on his sister Susan Harling Robinson, who died from diabetes-related complications.

“The play is a tribute to [Harling’s] sister.  There are no men because the idea of a beauty shop is a place where women go. It’s a sisterhood where women talk about themselves and there are no men involved,” Valenti said.

Christie & Co. Salon in Bay Terrace is the production’s sponsor, chosen for the connection between the real-life hair salon and Truvy’s Beauty Spot, the fictional hair salon where much of the movie takes place.

“When [TBTBNY] came to us, we were very excited. It’s always a well-attended event,” said salon owner Lois Christie. “Obviously, Christie & Co. is here for 50 years in this community, so we always like to get involved in the interests of what our clients do.”

Like Truvy’s Beauty Spot, Christie & Co. is a woman-owned business, which is one of the reasons Christie said  TBTBNY reached out to her.

“I never thought of it as a ‘woman being in business’ or anything else. I just knew I wanted to own my own salon and I wanted to be the biggest and the best it could be. Even though this is a male-dominated business, I think the beauty industry is based on if you’re very good at what you do and you constantly work at it, you’ll be successful,” Christie said.

She shared that some of the challenges she faced decades ago are the same today: being financially sound and finding ways to change with the times. But she credits the local community and clients for the salon’s continued success.

“That’s why we always give back by supporting the local charities, of which there are many,” said Christie.

“Steel Magnolias” shows at TBTBNY (1300 209th St.) on Saturdays, March 7, 14 and 21 at 8:30 p.m. and Sundays, March 8, 15 and 22 at 3 p.m. Purchase tickets online, by phone at 718-428-6363 or by mail. Patrons can also purchase tickets in person at the box office. Click here to learn more.

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