If you can’t make it to a star-studded reading in California this weekend, plan a trip to the film’s Louisiana hometown.
Robert Harling’s stage play of “Steel Magnolias” premiered off-Broadway at the WPA Theatre in New York City in 1987. Most of the stage action took place at Truvy’s beauty salon, and only six characters graced the stage. The play ran through the beginning of 1990 and ended not long after the movie version in 1989. With a female cast of characters that most people can recite by name, the movie was No. 4 at the box office on its opening weekend and stayed in the Top 10 for 16 weeks.
The play finally made its Broadway debut at the Lyceum Theatre in 2005, with a cast that included Delta Burke, Rebecca Gayheart and Marsha Mason. The history of “Steel Magnolias” also includes a proposed television show on CBS that didn’t make it past the pilot, and last year Lifetime announced its own remake of the film starring Queen Latifah and Phylicia Rashad.
After 25 years, Harling’s story, based on the death of his diabetic sister, is very much alive and well. In celebration of the play’s roots and anniversary, a special reading is planned for September 9 at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica, California. Signed on to participate are Frances Conroy, Jennifer Coolidge, Elizabeth Perkins, Annie Potts and Alexis Bledel, with “All My Children’s” Jill Larsen as host. If you’re in the area, tickets start at $75 and the event at 6 p.m. If you’re not in the area, consider taking a trip to Natchitoches, Louisiana, the hometown of Harling and “Steel Magnolias.”
These days, there’s much more to the scenic river town of Natchitoches than Truvy’s Beauty Salon and armadillo-shaped groom’s cakes. Located between Alexandria and Shreveport in Central Louisiana, Natchitoches offers plenty of shopping, dining and strolling along Front Street, in addition to the surrounding Cane River area teeming with history and artistic and literary lore. But if it’s sites from the film you want to see, they’ve got that too.
Book a room at the Steel Magnolia House, whose interior and gardens were used in the film. Five guest rooms – the Shelby, Jackson, M’Lynn, Clairee Suite and Truvy’s Carriage House – range from $175-$250, and include such sights as the original tub Shelby was soaking in at the beginning of the movie and window Jackson crawled through to find her there.
A gourmet breakfast is served, and amenities include a screening of the movie. An Ultimate Fan Tour package that includes a stay in the Shelby or Jackson room, guided tour of filming locations by Lorenne Tate, who played Jackson’s mother in the movie, limited edition memorabilia book and lunch is also available for $100 a couple.
Please note that the house is on the market, but we’re told it hasn’t sold yet and is still accepting guests as usual. To see photos from the listing and a side-by-side comparison with scenes from the movie, check out Hooked on Houses’ post about the home.