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Theatre Review: Little House On The Prairie

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, April 16, 2010
The first thing eveyone wants to know about this show is “How does Melissa Gilbert do?” The answer is “fine.” She plays the mom now, not the feisty daughter. And when Gilbert first appears, the recognition is both warm and immediate.

“Laura? Laura?” (Applause).

Anybody old enough to remember the TV series is probably eligible for AARP at this point. And as fans recall, Gilbert is a capable actress -- she lives up to expectations in that capacity.

But this show’s dominant images are of hardworking pioneers, building humble homes and breaking the soil on the open plains, (music rising) against a backdrop of glorious sunsets. It’s all about hard work and hope for the future, like this scene with muscular, denim-clad farmers putting down fence posts.

(Music, clank clank)

This is a score in which the French horn gets a workout, evoking the flat landscape and open skies of the Dakota territory. There are also big ensemble numbers with the entire cast singing.

(“On and on….”)

As for Melissa Gilbert’s singing -- well, the show’s creators only ask her to carry one song on her own. And yeah, the story’s predictable, and  short on dramatic tension… But my hunch is most folks regard this show the way they approach meatloaf and mashed potatoes – it’s comfort food, it’s supposed to feel familiar. And while this agreeable production isn’t particularly memorable, there is homespun humor, and a nice little love story, with good chemistry between actors Kara Lindsay and Kevin Massey. So if you’re hankering for a pleasant glow, and you like old-school entertainment with a wholesome heroine, “Little House on the Prairie” will fill the bill.

"Little House on the Prairie" continues through April 25th at Sacamento's Community Center Theatre.
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