It All Began at the Guthrie
In 2007 the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota announced they would be debuting a new musical based on the “Little House” books. Although they said their source material was the books, not the NBC series, they definitely connected with the series through the casting of Melissa Gilbert as Ma and through their characterization of Nellie which matches the TV Nellie more than the books.
A Big Success
The show proved a big success with the original booking being extended by weeks for an audience ranging from normal theater people to Laura fans making the trip (buses went from the homesite towns, which is how I went). After it closed at the Guthrie in Fall 2008 it was announced the production would go on a national (actually international – they had one booking in Canada) tour. In a national tour a production travels from city to city as theaters book it with the same cast, etc. traveling with the show. Gilbert remained in the Ma role for this further production as did some of the other actors, others in the cast were replaced either due to scheduling difficulties or because they weren’t willing to travel that long for the show. I was particularly saddened by the loss of Carrie who was very good in the Guthrie production.
Announcements of bookings dribbled out during 2009 and then in October 2009 they were off! The play had been slightly retooled – which is normal – and traveled all around the country. When they played Sioux Falls (where I saw it), the cast even made a group trip up to DeSmet to see where some of the story really took place. The roadshow closed in early summer 2010. A couple of months later the gift shop that traveled with the show sold out excess branded merchandise. The official website slipped into an archived state without access to what had previously been posted.
Find out my details of this and a link to the archived version of the website on my history of the musical post.
What Happens Next?
Well, the hope of every such musical is to make it to Broadway and maybe even on to London. It’s sometimes a broken road there. Usually after a national tour one of three things happens:
- It goes straight to Broadway to try its luck there!
- It gets polished and retooled and tries another tour.
- Rights are offered for purchase for local productions.
So the show ended and what happened was…. nothing! At least in public. I assume there was at least some hope that it was going to have a chance at Broadway… or at least another shot at a tour. They don’t release rights for local productions until all hope for a big show is gone – at least for the immediate future.
Through 2013 the site remained operating in its archived state, then as a background screen, but preserving ownership through the first part of 2016 and I assume some hope remained. However, someone behind the scenes has now officially given up. The URL of the show is now an ad for a Japanese (in Japanese) diet supplement.
The Good News
The positive part of this is that starting in Fall 2019 local groups will be able to put on productions of the show. Hopefully it will become popular and you’ll get to see a local production near you!
If you’re looking for buying, rights, scripts, etc. here you go! That’s what you’re going to want to pass on to your local theater groups, high schools, etc. and ask them to put on the show! They also have a digital preview version of the script.
Sarah S. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many times at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. She is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic, and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. How can you help? Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, look at her photos, and find her on Facebook , Twitter , Google+, LinkedIn , SlideShare, and Academia.edu . Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and former director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.