“Little House,” the musical: Coming soon to a prairie near you

Given the Broadway stagehands
strike
, I thought
I wouldn’t be doing much theater blogging this week. But, of course,
theater is not all about Broadway. And Siege amply reminded of
that when she made my day by passing along an exciting bit of musical
theater news: The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis will be producing
the world premiere of

Little House on the Prairie,
a musical based on the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. The show is
scheduled to open during the summer of 2008.

I’m cautiously optimistic about
this project. For one thing, the creative team seems pretty amazing.
It includes a Tony Award–winning writer (Rachel Sheinkin), an Academy Award–winning composer
(Rachel
Portman
) and
a director (Francesca Zambello) who has helmed productions at the Metropolitan
Opera and the London Opera, among other places.

Rounding out the creative team
is lyricist Donna DiNovelli. Lots of girl power on this production.

Additionally, Little House
on the Prairie
is a good story: there’s frontier adventure, family
drama and romance. And probably bear attacks and things. It’s also fitting
that this Midwestern story is being developed in the Midwest. The combination
of a familiar story and regional interest will likely draw people who
might not otherwise be attracted to musical theater. I like that. Ideally,
if it’s successful, the show will move beyond Minneapolis.

It seems that the origins of the show
may be in New York
.
Portman, Zambello and DiNovelli were involved with a production of
Prairie
that was workshopped in New York last spring. I’m not certain
to what extent the Guthrie production is based on that original workshop.
However, the New York connections may help bring this show to New York
or to a broader touring audience.

My excitement about the show
is tinged with caution, however, because the last show I saw based on
a 19th-century novel about women, Little Women, was utter
dreck. Even Sutton Foster couldn’t save it.

Ideally, this will be better.

What we don’t know, of course,
is the specifics of the story. The versions I’m considering in my head
are based on the TV show rather than the books because I have fonder
memories of the TV show than I do of the books.

It’s a safe bet that there
will be a lot of Laura in the story.

And I always had kind of a
crush on Caroline “Ma” Ingalls,(Karen Grassle), so I’m interested
to see how they’ll cast her.

And there has to be a fair
amount of Nellie Oleson (Alison Arngrim) for conflict and pathos.

(I have to say, I liked
it when Nellie fell in love with Percival and became nice. You can watch
a clip here.)

I suspect that some of the
high drama moments I remember and love from the show and the subsequent
TV movies — when Albert wanted to marry the girl who was pregnant as a result of
rape; when Mary lost her baby in the fire; when they blew up the town — won’t make it into the musical.

Here’s a clip of a heart-wrenching
post-fire scene:



Albert was so sad and guilty.

Regardless, the story opportunities
are broad. I suspect Laura Ingalls Wilder herself would approve.

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