Hormel Girls set to take center stage

Published 8:19 am Friday, July 16, 2010

More than 50 years after a band of saleswomen crisscrossed the nation peddling SPAM — each with a swing in their step and a song in their voice — Summerset Theatre presents the Austin debut of their historic adventures.

“Hormel Girls” opens Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Frank W. Bridges Theatre at Riverland Community College, 1600 Eighth Ave. NW. After five runs, the show will close next Saturday.

Director of the production Jerry Girton said it has been a fun show to put together.

Email newsletter signup

“It’s a play about real people… And it’s kind of fun to do a show about the Hormel Girls in the town where they originated,” he said.

“Hormel Girls” was originally staged in 2007 at the History Theatre in St. Paul.

Summerset’s is the third stage to produce the musical about the all-girl swing band that Jay C. Hormel formed for G.I. Janes home from World War II; the performing group later accepted women who were not in the service, too.

Particularly interesting, Girton said, was putting together costumes for the show.

“Thanks to being right here in town, we were able to look at the Hormel archives,” he said. “A lot of research was done to put them together.”

The Hormel Girls — often said to be an early symbol of independent women — traveled the country selling Hormel products by day and gave concerts in the towns they visited by night.

At their peak, they had a top-rated radio show and counted up to 65 women in their ranks.

Minneapolis-based producer Perrin Post said last week that she came up with the idea for a musical about the singing saleswomen several years ago during a trip to the SPAM Museum.

“Instantly I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is a show… I said to myself, ‘these women are so interesting.’”

Post said she was drawn to the Hormel Girls partially because of the roles the show would provide to women actors.

The Summerset Production will have six women playing Hormel Girls, Girton said, and about the same number of men playing other roles, including that of Jay C. Hormel.

Post said she has hopes of the script being someday re-written for an even larger cast, and going on a nationwide “Hormel Girls” tour.

“It’s such a positive part of Hormel History,” she said of the musical’s subject matter.

“Hormel Girls” takes the Frank W. Bridges stage at 7:30 p.m. July 20-24. Tickets are $15 and may be purchased at Coffee House on Main and at the box office. They may be reserved by calling 433-0595.

A reception will be held for some of the original Hormel Girls and the creators of the musical at 5:30 p.m. July 24 at the Historic Hormel Home. Reception tickets are $35 and are available at the box office.

Hormel Girls

When: 7:30 p.m., July 20-24

Where:Frank W. Bridges Theatre, 1600 Eighth Ave. NW

Tickets: $15

Hormel Girls Reception

When: 5:30 to 7 p.m., Saturday, July 24

Where: Hormel Historic Home, 208 Fourth Ave. NW

Details:Real Hormel Girls and the creator of the musical visit; hors d’oeuvres buffet and wine served

Tickets: $35