‘Little House on the Prairie’ at The Fox a real treat
“Little House on the Prairie, the Musical,” opened at the Fox Theater in Atlanta on June 15 and will be playing until Sunday, June 20.
The much beloved television show, “Little House on the Prairie,” which ran from 1974 to 1983, has become a musical complete with one of the main stars of the television show, Melissa Gilbert. Gilbert played Laura “Half-pint” Ingalls, young daughter and eventual author of a series of children’s books entitled “Little House on the Prairie.” Two years ago she was offered the part of “Ma,” the mother in the books and play. She admits to no singing ability, but started singing lessons, reread the series of “Little House” books and loved the beautiful play script.
Unlike the television series, the main portion of the play is set years later when Laura is reaching womanhood and facing her own future. Prairie life, struggling to claim their land rights in DeSmet, S. D., the Ingalls family seek a better life for themselves during the westward push of new immigrants. Through songs and dances, the story unfolds in front of brilliant, colorful sets and backdrops. We see the harshness of winter blizzards with hardly any food for the new residents, but the family survives and prospers.
Music is by Oscar winner Rachel Portman, and the musical is directed by Francesca Zambello who also directed Broadway’s “The Little Mermaid.” A live orchestra accompanies the theater company.
Several of the songs are memorable and beautiful — “I’ll Be Your Eyes,” sung by Laura and her sister, Mary, who became blind after contracting scarlet fever. “The Prairie Moves” sung by Pa, who is a veteran Broadway actor/singer. Melissa Gilbert has a solo song and is quite good. Her solo is “Wild Child,” and she sings this song to Laura who is grown at the end of the play.
Lara Lindsay, originated the musical’s Laura, at the Guthie Theatre in Minnesota. She holds a B.F.A. from Carnegie Mellon University, has a spectacular voice and range and is the main singer in the play. She is capable of pulling off the aging of Laura from child to young adult.
“Pa” Ingalls is played by Steve Blanchard, recently appearing in Broadway’s “Beauty and the Beast,” as the Beast for eight years.
His singing is also very good and he is able to handle the entire stage.
The story would not be complete without one of the cast of regulars who delighted the television audience weekly — Nellie Oleson, the thorn in Laura’s side. Kate Loprest, who appeared on Broadway in “Hairspray” and recently debut in the role of Scarlet on ABC’s “All My Children,” is Nellie. She is the comic relief.
As a roadshow, it has quite a large cast with several children as young as ten, including Melissa Gilbert’s son, Michael Boxleitner in his theatrical debut. Anastasia Korbal, who plays Laura’s youngest sister, Carrie, is a very gifted 10-year-old actor/singer.
Audiences of all ages should enjoy Little House. There were lots of young children in the audience on opening night who obviously were familiar with the television series and their characters, some even dressed in period costumes. Although they may not understand the seriousness of the dialog at times, the mu- sic, dancing and set changes should keep them interested. Prior to the play beginning, we were treated to an organ concert on the “Mighty Mo” by resident organist, Larry Embury. The booming sound of the organ throughout the richly appointed the- atre is a real treat.
Tickets are available at the Fox box office; for information call (404) 881-2100, call for availability. Ticket prices range from $30-$80. It is a family friendly play. $7-10 play parking is available all around the Fox.