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


Given the Broadway stagehands

, 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


) 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

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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