Gilbert back on ‘Prairie’

Actress joins Swayze in stage adaptation

Patrick Swayze and Melissa Gilbert will topline the pre-production workshop presentation of “Prairie,” a new tuner based on the “Little House on the Prairie” series of books.

Invitation-only workshop, set for April 16-17, precedes a national tour of the musical planned for spring 2008, prior to an eventual berth in Gotham.

Swayze, recently seen on the West End in “Guys and Dolls,” will play Pa opposite Gilbert as Ma. Actress, who was prexy of SAG for four years, grew up playing tyke Laura Ingalls Wilder on the nine-season NBC adaptation of “Little House.”

For the workshop, Francesca Zambello, helmer of Disney’s Rialto-bound stage version of “The Little Mermaid,” directs a cast that also includes Sara Chase as Laura, as well as Michael Arden (“The Times They Are A-Changin'”), Jenny Galloway (“Les Miserables”) and Sara Ford.

Beth Henley (“Crimes of the Heart”) wrote the book for “Prairie,” which has music by screen composer Rachel Portman (who won an Oscar in 1997 for “Emma”) and lyrics by Donna DiNovelli. Story follows a pioneering American family in the late 19th century.

Design team will include Adrianne Lobel (sets), Natasha Katz (lights) and Martin Pakledinaz (costumes).

Producing team, headed by Ben Sprecher (“A Moon for the Misbegotten”) and wife Amy, a children’s TV exec producer, also includes Louise Forlenza, Bob Boyett (“The History Boys,” “Coram Boy”) and Wendy Federman. Both Forlenza and Federman are producers of “Misbegotten.”

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