A young beautician, newly-arrived in a small but fictional Louisiana town, finds work at the local salon, where a small group of women share a close bond of friendship, and is welcomed into their fold.

And there you have the plot for a ‘true story’ stage play with an all-female cast comprising Lucy Speed, Laura Main, Harriet Thorpe, Caroline Harker, Elizabeth Ayodele and Diana Vickers.

Currently on tour to the Theatre Royal in Bath, the original play became a 1989 Hollywood film with a stellar cast including Shirley MacLaine, Sally Field, Julia Roberts, Olympia Dukakis and Dolly Parton.

Steel Magnolias tells the story of six women who come together in Truvy’s small-town beauty salon in the American South. It turns out to be warm, witty and strangely uplifting, despite the tragic ending.

Faced with the highs and lows of love and life, and amongst the chaos of work, marriage and children, they tackle each other’s trials and tribulations as they unite to gossip, unwind and set the world to rights, showing what friendship really means.

Dolly Parton is a hard act to follow, but Lucy Speed is excellent in the role of salon owner Truvy Jones with her mantra “There’s no such thing as natural beauty”.

Harriet Thorpe, best known as Carole Parkinson from the BBC’s sitcom The Brittas Empire, was superb as slightly cooky, gruff Ouiser Bordreaux, who gets all the best lines.

There was also some lovely interplay between Laura Main and Diana Vickers as the concerned mother M’Lynn Eatenton and her fragile and diabetic daughter Shelby.

Elizabeth Ayodele as newcomer Annelle Dupuy gives the role depth and warmth as she becomes a convert to religion, and Caroline Harker as the wealthy ex-mayoress and radio station owner Clairee Belcher complete the superb cast.

They were ably directed by Anthony Banks in this stage revival of Robert Harding’s tribute to his diabetic sister, his mother and the group of local women who supported them during some tough times.

One of the stars of the show is the set design by Laura Hopkins, which is  framed by a rectangular light strip that gives the production a slightly cinematic feel.

The set is cleverly reversed after the interval, so you literally see things from a different perspective, which I found initially disconcerting.

Act one introduces the characters and establishes relationships and nothing much of note happens, although Shelby is taken ill as her blood sugar levels drop, giving a foretaste of what might happen later.

Act two is set nearly two years later and things take a darker turn as tragedy strikes Shelby, who is now on kidney dialysis, and the women have to deal with the fall out of her demise.

When you reach the final scenes, Laura Main dominates as M’Lynn and I’ll wager there was hardly a dry eye in the house at the end.

Steel Magnolias is classed as a comedy but it’s a dark one with some classic one-liners, such as “I’m not crazy, M’Lynn, I’ve just been in a very bad mood for 40 years!” and “The nicest thing I can say about her is that her tattoos are spelt correctly”.

I was a bit dubious about watching Steel Magnolias on a St Valentine’s Day evening but left feeling pleased that I’d seen it. The play still resonates as much as it did when it was written 36 years ago.

Steel Magnolias is on at the Theatre Royal Bath to Saturday, February 18. Tickets are on sale at the Theatre Royal Bath Box Office on 01225 448844 and online at www.theatreroyal.org.uk