Saturday, 30 January 2010

Little House on the Big Stage

Wednesday was the first time Little House on the Prairie: The Musical - starring Melissa Gilbert herself as 'Ma' - played to audiences in Toronto. Except Melissa Gilbert did not play 'Ma' that night! She was sick. She was back on the stage the next night, but that doesn't do me any good does it? The kicker was that we had the meet and greet after the show. I was a little too excited to be meeting Melissa Gilbert. Who didn't grow up watching Laura and the rest of the Walnut Grove gang? This was such an opportunity; we'd be meeting Melissa!

To tell the truth, I was just as geared up to be spending some time with some of the 'Yummy Mummies' I've come to know and adore on Twitter. Laugh if you will, but I've made some amazing connections through this social media forum. It was great to see so many of them there that night. We got a few pictures of the cast and the yummies. (But not meeting Melissa was quite disappointing. Do you remember how excited I was to be meeting her?!)
That's me in the purple scarf. The kid next to me is Melissa Gilbert's son. He plays Willie Oleson, Nellie's sister, in the show.
The 'Yummies' and the cast looking up at Rachael as she takes our picture.

I have to say, I did really enjoy myself at this show. I had to really think about whether that was because of the musical itself, or the fact that I got to hang out with these women before and after the show, and during intermission. (And, oh ya, Jean-Paul was there, too.) I think it's half and half. The night would not have been quite as enjoyable had it not been for the company, but I did enjoy the musical, too.

I'll let you in on a little secret. My husband knows this about me, but I'll share it with you, too. I have two brains. I see a show from two (sometimes very different) perspectives. I have my critical 'theatre brain'. This brain agrees with what Richard Ouzounian said in his Toronto Star review. This brain sees set doors that are built and not used. Why did Pa just walk through the wall?! This brain watches as Laura and Almanzo jump off the wagon they're speeding along in as the sing to each other (in that the-other-person-can't-hear-me-singing fashion). OMG! Stay on the buggy, for pete's sake! This brain listens to the music and hears overly-simplicstic lyrics and not one stand out song. Are they singing AGAIN?! This brain wonders why the hell Mary's little sister, Carrie, just ran off without her BLIND sister in a terrible fire as the fields burned. What just happened? This brain watches three separate occassions that seem to be nearing climax, but it never happens. Girls, don't you just hate that?! This brain wonders why they even bothered to show the couple Laura was staying with while she taught in a neighbouring town - and moreso, why did they give the wife a song of her own? Well, that was useless. This brain wonders why 'Pa' is glaringly obviously not playing that fiddle! Can ya fake it a bit better please? I'm having Milli Vanilli flashbacks.

Oh ya, another thing my 'theatre brain' was critical of was this. It likely won't happen on many nights of the run, if ever again, but one of the domino effects of Melissa Gilbert being sick that night was that 'Eliza Wilder' had to step into the role of 'Ma'. That meant that 'Eliza's understudy had to step into that part. That understudy happened to black, which would generally be absolutely fine. In this case however, that means that Almanzo and Eliza Wilder were interracial siblings. Not very likely to have happened in the Prairie's in the late 1800s.

Now, for my other brain. My other brain has the ability to remove itself from these foibles. My other brain can sit back and thoroughly enjoy something that my 'theatre brain' would tear apart. I credit this other brain for my love of cheesy disaster movies. I do. I love 'Volcano' and 'Armageddon' and all that other crap out there. Hell, I even enjoyed 'The Core'. I KNOW!

My other brain did enjoy this show. My other brain loved the content of 'Ma's song when she was singing about how she could possibly be raising two such different daughters; she wonders what she has done to have them turn out as they have. My other brain loved watching the stories unfold on stage that I know deep in my heart from watching for all those years. My other brain liked the over-the-top portrayal of Nellie. My other brain could dismiss 'Pa's lack of fiddlin' skills and enjoy the number, smiling along with the Ingalls. My other brain is looking forward to going to see the show again. We have tickets to go again in February as part of our regular subscription. Although he can overlook some things and enjoy the show, Jean-Paul does not have this 'other brain'. He will not be going to see the show again. He's on side with Richard O of the Toronto Star and J Kelly Nestruck of the Globe and Mail.

Little House on the Praire: The Musical runs until February 28 at the Canon Theatre in Toronto (formerly The Pantages). You can click on the link at the side of this page for tickets. Make sure to quote FAITH to get them as low as $25.

Please comment and let me know if you're planning to see it and what you thought!

4 comments:

Lucas said...

Good review, I have tickets for Friday and am still looking forward to it despite the negative reviews in the Globe, Star & Sun. I'll post my thoughts next week. CMDM

JackiYo said...

Enjoy, Lucas :) I'm interested to hear your thoughts.

Lucas said...

Sorry I'm late in following up with my review of Little House : The Musical, but I lost my link to your blog. Anyway, I saw it on Friday February 5th. There were a few initial grumbles when word spread that Melissa Gilbert would not be appearing in this particular show. I overheard one lady say she deliberately chose an evening performance instead of a matinee to improve the odds of seeing Melissa Gilbert. That hiccup aside, the show got off to a good start and held my attention throughout the first half. Unlike The Sound of Music which I saw last year which had the benefit of instant song recognition, the Little House songs were all new to me and several were quite catchy. I don't think there was a CD on sale in the lobby or online but I could be wrong about this. I would have bought one if there was. I found the second half not as compelling as the first but the finale/encore made up for that. In a nutshell, I gave the show a 6.5, my father gave it a 7 -- good grades since we're pretty stingy markers. The Nellie Oleson and Ingalls daughters were all well cast and played. Ma's backup did a good job as well. I hope there will be another good play to see in Toronto this summer when I make my next excursion to the big city.

JackiYo said...

Thanks Lucas. I love hearing what others think about the shows, too. I had the chance to see the show again last week - with Ms Gilbert. Although it was great to see her, let's just say I'm glad I saw the understudy in the role as well. The understudy did a much better job as far as the emotion in the songs. As far as good shows for Toronto, Priscilla Queen of the Desert is coming in the fall. Mamma Mia and Fiddler on the Roof are both coming back in the spring/summer. And the one I'm REALLY hoping to catch is Rock of Ages, opening in April.

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