at History Theatre through December 30
In the late '40s, what with a large segment of the adult male population occupied overseas, America looked to women to fill previously uncharacteristic roles: Riveters and baseball players spring to mind, and now, with Hormel Girls, we also have the pleasing image of an all-woman traveling band with a sideline in selling canned meat. It's as Minnesotan a story as you're likely to come across, with wholesome young lovelies (frequently fresh from military service themselves) playing big-band music while shilling for Spam, and this show at the History Theatre packages this episode in local history with book and lyrics by Laurie Flanagan and music by Hiram Titus. It's no small history, as it turns out—the Hormel Girls Caravan, by the end of the decade, consisted of a 65-strong unit that toured the country and soothed the nation's soul by playing on national network radio. This was no beauty pageant, by the way—about half of the women eventually earned college degrees, making the Hormel Girls an early model of American women's empowerment. So you can avail yourself of this final weekend of the show on a couple of levels: It's a period piece about women's history, and it's a feel-good musical with ample laughs. That's indicative of the niche History Theatre has carved out for itself, telling regional stories with heart and ample attention to the texture of the times depicted. And you'll probably come away with several years' worth of Spam jokes with which to regale those dear to you.
Tickets for Hormel Girls at History Theatre range $20-$30 with shows 8:00 pm Friday-Saturday; 2:00 pm Sunday through December 30