Little House on the Prairie
Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis
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“Every beloved book exists to end as a musical,” said Brendan Lemon in the Financial Times. Or at least it seems that way. Few novels are more beloved than Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie, which has sparked the imagination of many a young girl. The author’s other coming-of-age tales—and the successful television adaptation in the 1970s—helped establish the Ingalls family as a vivid example of the hardships and triumphs faced by the homesteaders of the American Great Plains. Unfortunately, Little House the musical doesn’t rise to those heights. Instead it falls “as flat as the prairie.” Director Francesca Zambello’s staging is too simplistic, scriptwriter Rachel Sheinkin’s dialogue too earnest, and composer Rachel Portman’s music simply uninspiring. That should “give the producers pause before reassembling this Little House for Broadway.”
“The problems with this show are deep, structural, and systemic,” said Dominic P. Papatola in the St. Paul, Minn., Pioneer Press. Too many of Portman’s songs are “half-formed collections of musical phrases that don’t build musically or thematically, and librettist Donna DiNovelli’s lyrics are so comically “on the nose that they explain specifically what the characters are doing as they do them.” Kara Lindsay and Jenn Gambatese give affable performances as Laura and Mary Ingalls. But it was a mistake to cast Melissa Gilbert—who played Laura on the television series—as the girls’ mother. Her voice is thin and her delivery stilted. Despite all this, her presence is surely contributing to the show’s string of sellouts. Though I doubt whether this weak concoction could continue to fill the house each night on Broadway.
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