Actress set for musical version of 'Little House'
Melissa Gilbert is heading back to the prairie. Thesp has signed on for the world preem of the tuner version of “Little House on the Prairie,” bowing at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis this summer.Gilbert, who grew up starring as protag Laura Ingalls Wilder on NBC’s 1974-83 series rendition of “Prairie,” will play Laura’s mother, Ma, in the musical. Steve Blanchard (“Beauty and the Beast”) will play Pa, and recent Carnegie Mellon grad Kara Lindsay will portray Laura. Jenn Gambatese (“Tarzan”) will play older sis Mary, with Sara Jean Ford as neighborhood brat Nellie and Kevin Massey as Laura’s eventual hubby, Almanzo Wilder. Gilbert appeared in a developmental workshop presentation of the musical last year, with Patrick Swayze co-starring as Pa. Ben Sprecher, who heads a team of commercial producers attached to the project, approached Gilbert about returning to “Prairie,” a property that remains much loved today. “I’m very careful about the way the legacy is handled,” she said. “My primary concern was that the material was done the right way.” Plot, based on the autobiographical series of books by the real-life Laura Ingalls Wilder, centers on the pioneer lives of the Ingalls clan in late 19th-century South Dakota. Francesca Zambello (“The Little Mermaid”) will helm the show, with music by film composer Rachel Portman (“Emma”) and lyrics by Donna DiNovelli. Rachel Sheinkin (“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”) provides the book, replacing the previously attached Beth Henley. “Prairie” looks primed for future life if its proves successful, although no concrete plans for Broadway or a national tour have yet been made. Tuner begins previews at the Guthrie on July 26 ahead of an Aug. 15 opening.