Thursday, May 29, 2008

Little House casting

There's a familiar name in the just-announced cast for Little House on the Prairie, the musical that will premiere in July at Minneapolis' Guthrie Theater, and it's sure to please fans of the long-running television show.

Melissa Gilbert, who starred as Laura, opposite the late Michael Landon's Pa in the series that ran from 1974 to 1983, will play the role of Ma in the stage version. Gilbert, who served for two terms as president of the Screen Actors Guild, told Variety, "I'm very careful about the way the legacy is handled. My primary concern was that the material was done the right way."

Kara Lindsay, a 2007 graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, will portray Laura in the musical, based on Laura Ingalls Wilder's beloved books about growing up in a 19th-century pioneer family. Lindsay was in the cast of Randy Quaid's ill-fated musical Lone Star Love in Seattle last fall.

Other Little House cast members include Broadway veterans Steven Blanchard as Pa; Jenn Gambatese as Mary; Sara Jean Ford as Nellie; and Kevin Massey as Almanzo Wilder.

I haven't been able to find out much about Lindsay. Reactions to Lone Star Love were mixed, and Lindsay gets only the briefest mention in reviews, but they're generally good, and along the lines of this one:

"Perhaps the sweetest pair on stage was a yodeling cowboy, Fenton (Clarke Thorell) and his newfound eternal love, the perfectly adorable MissAnn (Kara Lindsay). Their silly, winking from the wings romance had the best songs of the show, "Prairie Moon" and "Count on My Love" and really felt closest to the simple and unabashed tenderness of a romantic comedy. "

I did catch a glimpse of Lindsay singing, in a video from a Lone Star Love rehearsal held for the press in New York last summer. You can see and hear her near the end, in a duet with her yodeling cowboy beau.

Little House on the Prairie will be directed by Francesca Zambello, with music by Donna di Novelli, lyrics by Oscar-winner Rachel Portman (Emma) and a book by Rachel Sheinkin, Tony winner for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Previews begin at the Guthrie on July 26 and the musical runs through Oct. 5. For more background, Steve on Broadway attended a sneak preview held at the Guthrie in March.


Sarah B. Roberts said...

As a mega fan of all of the books and the series, I have to admit that I'm not pleased. I tried to imagine that squeaky voice singing and it just makes me shake my head. It's stunt casting to be sure. Or who knows - maybe she really can sing. I just dread what they are doing here. It's been proven time and time again that epics don't work for musicals - the material is too broad and deep. Either focus on Laura as the child or Laura as the young woman. I just don't feel optimistic about this one. Hopefully I'll be pleasantly surprised all around.

Esther said...

I loved the "Little House" series as a kid, too. Yeah, I agree that it's risky turning it into a musical. But I'm intrigued to see what Rachel Sheinkin will do with the book. I think it'll be fun to see Melissa Gilbert. And this is going to be my own adventure in the endless pursuit of entertainment!

Interval Drinks said...

I had no idea this was happening. Adored the books as a child and found the TV show hard enough to take, so I really can't see this working on stage - but I'll be intrigued to see what you make of it!

Esther said...

Thanks for the comment Interval Drinks! I think there's an interesting team behind the book and music, so we'll see what happens. In any event, it'll be my first visit to Minneapolis and the Guthrie Theatre, so I'm looking forward to it!