Wednesday, August 6, 2008

One month to go

One month from today I'll be in Minneapolis, sitting in the audience at the Guthrie Theater's McGuire Proscenium watching the new musical Little House on the Prairie!

So with previews in full swing, and the Aug. 15 opening night a little more than a week away, it's time to catch up on a little Little House news.

Graydon Royce, theatre critic for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, has an interesting story about the show and its prospects after the Guthrie run, which has already been extended by two weeks - to Oct. 19. In the story, producer Ben Sprecher cautions that there are no official plans to take the musical to Broadway. Still, he doesn't rule out the possibility. "The show's got to be correct. It is very much a work-in-progress, and we hope we get it right at the Guthrie."

And Philip Boroff of Bloomberg News speaks to Adrianne Lobel, who conceived of the musical and designed the sets. Lobel was producer and set designer for A Year with Frog and Toad, based on the children's books written and illustrated by her father, Arnold Lobel.

As a child vacationing in Vermont during the summer she'd build houses out of sticks, imagining herself living on the prairie like Laura Ingalls. "What I love about the books is the power of autobiography,'' Lobel said. "That little girl made all her family immortal. Mary's blindness started Laura on that path. She had to describe things to her sister, which helped her remember them.''

Ticket sales on the first day broke a box office record for the Guthrie, and the theatre isn't the only place that's getting a boost. The musical has also sparked interest in visits to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, according to director Amy Ankrum. "The books are still very popular, and when they hear that name (Little House), they think of the books as well, and it brings to mind the TV series."

Apparently I'll be in very good company on Sept. 6. In addition to my two excellent theatergoing companions, there'll be a contingent from Walnut Grove. The Walnut Grove group will be getting a backstage tour and hopefully a meeting with Melissa Gilbert, who plays Caroline Ingalls to Kara Lindsay's Laura. "I'll be on the bus that day, I gotta go," said museum board president Mary Jo Hendrickson. "It's a special event. It's important."

Also, check out the blog Only Laura, a great meeting place for fans of Little House on the Prairie. Blogger Sandra Hume edits The Homesteader, a newsletter about author Laura Ingalls Wilder that comes out twice a year.

Finally, you should stay away from these next two sites if you want to remain absolutely spoiler-free. (I'll admit, I'm a hopeless information junkie. I couldn't resist looking at either one of them.)

At Besides the Obvious, a Minneapolis blogger named Erika has a very detailed and thoughtful review of the musical. And, if you want to see what the show looks like on stage, Playbill has lots of photos of the entire cast, including Gilbert, Lindsay, Steven Blanchard as Pa; Jenn Gambatese as Mary, Sara Jean Ford as Nellie, and Kevin Massey as Almanzo Wilder.

Tickets for Little House on the Prairie are priced from $29 to $75, and are available by calling (612) 377-2224 or (877) 44-STAGE or by visiting the Guthrie Web site.

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