Making a musical about musicians is not an easy task
By David Hawley
Playwright Laurie Flanigan says "Hormel Girls," which runs through Dec. 30 at St. Paul’s History Theatre, posed a unique challenge for her and composer Hiram Titus.
How do you write an original musical about musicians whose work involves performing popular songs?
"In one of the early drafts, we had a problem with a concern that the audience might be confused about what are old songs and what are new songs," Flanigan said.
Titus said the problem was fixed with a montage. "There’s a part of the show where we go in-depth into what the actual Hormel Girls shows were like," he said. "For that, we used clips of the actual songs to help the audience get a sense of the period. Everything else is new and like any musical, the music reflects the actual dramatic or emotional needs of the show."
Flanigan, who also wrote the lyrics, says the show is a fictional account of the experiences of a group of six Hormel Girls. Two male actors portray all the men, including Jay Hormel.
"The story may be fictional, but it follows the history of the Hormel Girls Caravan — how it evolved from a drum and bugle corps into a glamorous stage presentation," Flanigan said. "And it’s also about how the caravan changed the lives of the women who were involved with it."
Hiram Titus, whose long history of stage composing includes music for the Guthrie and Children’s theaters, said "Hormel Girls" gave him the chance to write music in the style of the 1940s and 1950s.
"It was great fun writing swing tunes and songs that sound like they're from that period," he said. "It’s got a lot of energy and exuberance, from tap to ballet. You name it, we got it."
David Hawley wrote this for MinnPost, a nonprofit journalism enterprise that publishes MinnPost.com and MinnPost in print.
See the show
What: "Hormel Girls," book and lyrics by Laurie Flanigan, music by Hiram Titus.
When: Through Dec. 30 at the History Theatre, 30 E. 10th St., St. Paul.
Tickets, reservations: $20 to $30. (651) 292-4323.
To learn more, go to Postbulletin.com/weblinks.
Hormel Girls http://www.historytheatre.com/hormel_girls.asp#context
Hormel Girls study guide http://www.historytheatre.com/docs/HG_study_guide.pdf