Quote of the Day: Cooking is technical, but it’s also ancestral. Food is Love… from the new musical I am Betty, Book and Lyrics by Cristina Luzárraga, Music and Lyrics by Denise Prosek, Directed by Maija Garcia, on stage at the History Theatre in St. Paul, MN thru Dec. 23, 2023.
Betty Crocker was not a real person. She is a made up icon by the Washburn-Crosby Company, later General Mills, to sell their products. She also became a radio and television personality as well as a correspondent for women who wrote in with questions about cooking. Several women have portrayed her through the years. The first portrait of her was painted by Neysa McMein in 1936. Several more have been done since then, updated for changes in hairstyles and clothing. Betty represents women, both in the work force, and at home testing the recipes on their families. The musical shows the challenges that women face balancing work and family and gaining respect from the male dominated corporate world and getting fairly compensated.
The History Theatre has brought together a stellar ensemble cast, all women, who play numerous parts – men, women, children, corporate workers and housewives. They include: Ruthie Baker, Camryn Buelow, Erin Capello, Tiffany Cooper, Lynnea Doublette, Jennifer Grimm, Anna Hashizume, Olivia Kemp, and Kiko Laureano. They all have strong, gorgeous singing voices and excellent acting skills. As I mentioned, they all have to play numerous characters, and they did a phenomenal job of making them all distinct. We follow several storylines, including Marjorie Child Husted who came up with the idea of Betty.
While waiting for the show to start, a woman in our row asked around, “What is your favorite Betty Crocker recipe?” DiAnne, my friend Krista’s mom, said, “All the food my kids had came from Betty Crocker.” Krista likes the chocolate pudding cake. The lady who posed the question said it’s the coffee cake. She said she’s baked it hundreds of times and is a family favorite. Besides the famous cookbook, first published in 1950 and included pictures, her brand sold premixes, and the famous Bisquick that was always on hand in the home where I grew up. In 1956, Betty Crocker introduced “Record for the Blind” to reach bakers who were blind. They had test kitchens and contests, call-ins, and written correspondence. The creators of the musical included all of this and more!
All of the songs are well constructed and help to tell the story of these women. Jason Hansen did the orchestrations. Sonja Thompson is the Music Director and keyboard. Kyle Baker on guitar, Josh Carlson on Drums, and Chris Smith on Bass. The band is on stage, towards the back. Set design and costumes (impressive, and so many changes to depict the various eras) by Sarah Bahr. Wonderful choreography by Renee Guittar. Lighting design by Karin Olson. Sound design by C Andrew Mayer. Leslie Ritenour did the video design, which often aided in establishing time and place.
I really enjoyed this production of Minnesota’s kitchen icon Betty Crocker, the influence of her brand on women, and the history of women in the work force, as well as the home. You can see the world premiere of I am Betty at the History Theatre in St. Paul, MN through Dec. 23, 2023. I hear tickets are selling fast, especially for Sunday matinees, so get yours soon. This is a delightful show that will put you in the mood for holiday cooking and baking, and give you an appreciation for the women who paved the way for women in the work force and leaders in their communities.
Go. Create. Inspire!
Journaling Prompt: What’s your favorite Betty Crocker recipe?