Friday, November 6, 2009

Little House on the Prairie: The Musical Review

One word, FANTASTIC! “Little House” was funny, emotional, and had out of this world dancing and singing! The music orchestra was fabulous! I had never seen anything like it!

The musical is based on the children’s “Little House” book series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The production is set “in and around” the Dakota Territory during the early 1880s. The musical begins with the family’s adventures on the prairie with Charles (Steve Blanchard) establishing a homestead. From a historical stand point, it was dangerous in that time to go on your own like he did and get your land and when the comments from the characters when Charles returns about “getting into fights” was mentioned I really enjoyed seeing that. It lets the viewer get an idea of real life in that era in history.

The production covered a lot of important details in Laura’s life. For starters, one of my favorite scenes in the production was Act I when Laura (Kara Lindsay) meets Nellie (Kate Loprest) for the first time. Viewers who are fans of the original NBC television series will be in for a treat. When Kate Loprest calls Laura and her sisters “country girls” you can almost close your eyes and picture Alison Arngrim’s voice as Nellie. The scene then follows as the Ingalls girls and Nellie attend school with Miss Wilder. This particular scene had one of the best musical numbers!
The “I Can Rock” song was hilarious! The scene starts with Carrie (Carly Rose Sonenclar) being nervous in class, so she is rocking her chair which is causing disturbance. Miss Wilder sends Carrie up front of the class, but is soon replaced by Laura. Laura takes the chair up front and the scene is performed brilliantly by the cast in the classroom as they jump back and forth into the rocking chair performing “I Can Rock” while Miss Wilder has her back turned.

Another scene I enjoyed was around the end of Act I when Mary goes blind. During the first hour you begin to fall in love with the characters and enjoy the adventures of the family, but
when Mary went blind the performance by Alessa Neeck was phenomenal. As an audience guest, you could almost feel the emotion Mary was going through when becoming blind and the comments about “being in the dark all the time” was touching. The most touching of it all was the song “I’ll Be Your Eyes” amazing performance by Kara Lindsay.

After Mary goes blind it is time for Laura to help pay for Mary to attend blind school. Laura takes on the job as a school teacher for Mr. Brewster (Christian Whelan). Laura stays at
the homestead of Mr. Brewster where she encounters his very insensitive wife, Mrs. Brewster (Meredith Inglesby). Again, the writers did it historically correct based on the books when writing for this character! Meredith Inglesby performance as Mrs. Brewster will make you feel like you are watching this character come to life right out of the books! I was in complete awe. During Laura’s stay with the Brewster’s she teaches at a school with children who all
want to learn, well except for one, Clarence Brewster (Brian Muller). Clarence is older than Laura and he lets her know that. The chemistry between Brian and Kara was really great and you can see in the later part of Act II how much of a mentor Laura became to him and how he ended up becoming one of her best students. During this Almanzo (Kevin Massey) visits Laura gives her rides and they start to fall in love (or at least not at first). Again, chemistry was great with Kevin and Kara. I remember wanting to see more scenes with the two because they worked so well together. After awhile, the play unfortunately came to an end after two hours and twenty minutes and the looks on the audiences face after the show was really great. I didn’t see one person who was unhappy. In fact, the person right next to me told their daughter it was over and time to go home and she looked up and said no it isn’t, we haven’t seen Rose.

Overall, I had never seen anything like it! Literally! I have never been to a musical before, had no clue how they were done, but was very impressed! If anything, the effects! I enjoyed seeing the different backdrop screens. The fire backdrop was my favorite. The scene where the prairie is on fire with this particular backdrop made it very realistic on stage, especially the shadow effect when Carrie is helping her sister Mary during the fire. Just brilliant work!

The cast? What can I say? They ALL worked so well together and as mentioned already the chemistry was great with all the actors. Here are my thoughts on a few of the cast:

Laura Ingalls/Kara Lindsay: one word, WOW! Kara captured the spirit and spunk of Laura Ingalls. Not only did she capture Laura, but her music talent! What a voice! Not only did Kara have to play Laura as a child but all the way up to adult and what a performance! I could go on all day. Laura would have been proud!

Caroline “Ma” Ingalls/Melissa Gilbert: I could never say anything bad about Melissa’s work, because I have never seen perform in anything bad. If anything, I am more amazed
now than ever with Melissa’s talent as an actress. Her performance as Caroline was very well done. At first, it was hard seeing her in another character for a “Little House” project other than Laura Ingalls, but she changed my mind right away with her performance. Enjoyed her singing parts too, love seeing Melissa explore her talents.

Charles “Pa” Ingalls/Steve Blanchard: Brilliant actor who gave a brilliant performance! If I had to picture Charles from the books it would be Steve. Seeing him and Kara as Laura during scenes together was like watching the books come to life. His performance really sold the audience as Charles. Loved his performance in “The Prairie Moves” and most of all watching him and Melissa perform on stage together, great chemistry!

Carrie Ingalls/ Carly Rose Sonenclar: A wonderful performance by this young actress. Carly really brought the role of Carrie to life. Enjoyed her humor too! Carly has so much talent that whatever she pursues after “Little House” she will find success.

Mary Ingalls/Alessa Neeck: Amazing, amazing, amazing actress! Loved watching her performance as the big sister, but she sold me with her performance as the blind Mary. The emotions almost made you feel she was really blind. This was live work and not once did she go out of character, amazing performance!

Nellie Oleson/Kate Loprest: Incredible! No, Fabulous! Kate really stole the show with her portrayal of the mean Nellie Oleson. Under that mean Nellie face, Kate has one of the most
beautifulest voices I have ever heard! Wow! I could listen to her all day. Her performance “Without an Enemy” was funny but yet brilliantly performed. Love this lady!

Willie Oleson/Michael Boxleitner: A wonderful and very talented young actor! Michael has indeed inherited wonderful talents from his parents. At such a young age his performance was out of this world. I was very impressed!

Mr. Oleson/Todd Thurston: Great performance! His performance really made you think he was running the mercantile. Loved his line about playing games in his store, not once did he break character or anything. Very well done.

Again, FANTASTIC! I can’t say anything bad or think of anything that I would do better because it was all well done! When Laura Ingalls Wilder was alive she had many offers for her books to be turned into plays and she always said no because she didn’t want to see her characters changed or portrayed in certain ways. I feel, as a “Little House” historian, that if Laura Ingalls Wilder was alive today and could have seen this play she would have been impressed and her thoughts would have been different. If you have not seen this play I highly recommend it! You will not be disappointed! If you would like to attend a production or buy
tickets visit:

Promo Video:

Below is a promo video for "Little House on the Prairie The Musical" featuring Melissa Gilbert. Scenes are from the production held at Robinson Center Music Hall on November 4th, 2009
in Little Rock Arkansas (based on this review). Promo video was courtesy of Celebrity Attractions. For more information contact Lennon Parker at

Back Stage: had the privilege and honor to go back stage and visit with the cast and crew of this musical. Everyone was beyond friendly and very, very, very down to earth. Below are some pictures with myself and some of the cast taken from this visit.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

"Little House" From Above and Below

In 1981, Gary Johnson, a fan of the "Little House" series was taking flying lessons from his brother who lived close to Simi Valley. One of the places that he saw during his lesson was the "Little House" set in Simi Valley. During his trip he took a few photos and later that same year even visited the set on the weekend so he wouldn't disturb filming. Below is his exciting story with some never before seen pictures of the set from above and below!

Click here to share your comments about these photos or discuss them with other fans of the show.

(Simi Valley, CA 1981 Walnut Grove)

(Simi Valley, CA 1981, Little House) Notice the jack rabbit to the right of the house above the shadow. Also, you can see that the local cows made their mark around the house. The door was open and of course we couldn't resist checking it out. (We wiped our feet first!) Very real inside and out. Sorry no pictures inside just memories and of course the calico curtain souvenir given to my fiancée from a crew member.

(Simi Valley Ca 1981) I do remember this beautiful house being blown up.

(Simi Valley, CA 1981) Looks like the crew created a Minnesota snowstorm for a winter scene. I don't remember if this was the temporary blind school... maybe someone can help with that.
Sorry about the wingtip.

(Simi Valley, CA 1981 Little House entrance sign.)
The gate was to the left and then a quick right up the hill. I'd say Plum Creek was about 1/2 mile from this sign.

(Simi Valley, CA 1981 Little House) This is our favorite photo. Had it blown up and framed... it's hanging in my office at home. Glad the outhouse was vacant!

(Simi Valley, CA 1981 Walnut Grove center of town)
Notice the teeter totter in lower right next to the Church/Schoolhouse.

(Simi Valley, CA 1981 Better shot of Walnut Grove)
Notice the blue and white stretch SUV I assume used to transport the cast and crew members. The set was so vast. Also, note the buckboards circled around the corral.

(Simi Valley, CA 1981 Aerial approach to Walnut Grove) Notice "The Pond" in foreground. Sorry about the lack of clarity.

(Simi Valley, CA 1981) Some of the incredible countryside leading up to Little House. Hard to believe this is less than 35 minutes from the center of downtown Los Angeles. My wife and
I love living in the area!

(Simi Valley, CA 1981 Little House) Notice Plum Creek was in operation fed by a modern day irrigation system. Also take note of the add-on kitchen on the back of house.

(Simi Valley, CA 1981) This is what made it so real to us as every structure was so spread out from the town and other houses.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Educating 4th Graders on "Little House"

September 11, what a day! A sad day in the USA as we remember those who fallen on September 11, 2001. To honor that our president made today national reading day so what does that mean? Bring on Halfpint! I was asked to go to our local elementary school today to read to children. My students were 4th graders. While walking into the classroom I had my large print version of "Little House in the Big Woods" I remember a little girl telling me while I make my way to my chair that she had already read that book and the entire series. I was amazed! At first, I thought she was pulling my leg but she started to talk about things in the books that only a reader would know.

So while I am at awe over this student I begin to give my "talk" (drum-roll)

Before I start, I always open up to the class if they have ever seen the TV show or ready any of the books. I already knew one student had but the others started to say no, but a few have seen the Michael Landon series. To win the time and attention of these students I needed to come up with something that would make them think but be fun at the same time. I told them all to close their eyes and think about life without no Internet, Computers, Video Games, TVs just books and long prairie fields. I then shared this was how Laura lived. So I started to read and share pictures and answer questions as I went a long.

What I found amazing was how interested the students really were. Students who I thought wouldn't event care did. I remember leaving and having one of the students ask me if I was going to come back and finish the book. The teacher said I was always welcome back. I did share that if they enjoyed the books but dont like to read big books at a time to check out the chapter books. They are much smaller and cheaper which parents like :)

Overall, I'm glad I was able to bring JOY to young minds today on such as sad day for our country.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Dabbs Greer: The Man Behind The Role of Reverend Robert Alden

Dabbs Greer was born April 2, 1917 in Fairview, Mo, but would soon settle in a small town of Anderson, Missouri with his family while an infant. His father operated a drug store in town, while his mother was a speech therapist. When asked about his hometown in an interview with Neosho Daily News he said, “Growing up there was like growing up anywhere else. When you’re a kid, you really don’t think much about it, you live day to day. I still have some good memories of the place, and I’ve never called any other place home, although I’ve lived in California for 50 years. One thing about a small town like Anderson is you get to know people intimately. You can’t do that in a big city. It was a beautiful city then, and it’s still beautiful. We would fish, have adventures, just do the things that boys do in a rural community.” The town celebrates Dabbs Greer’s accomplishments as a successful actor with “Dabbs Greer Days” that started in October 2004.

The acting bug hit Dabbs Greer when he was eight years old when he got his first acting experience on stage for a children’s theater production. After graduating from Anderson High School, Dabbs pursued his education and attended Drury College in Springfield, Mo. where he earned a bachelor’s degree. After graduating college, he served as head of the drama department at Mountain Grove High School from 1940 to 1943. After teaching, Dabbs went to Pasadena, where he was offered a job at the community playhouse. Dabbs was at the Pasadena Playhouse for seven years, leaving it for a career in films.

Dabbs Greer made his film debut in the 1938 20th Century Fox production of “Jesse James,” which was filmed in Pineville. In his interview with the Neosho Daily News in 2002 he said about his first picture, “Just like everybody else in the county, the folks at 20th Century Fox didn’t realize this, but that picture really put McDonald County on the map. And they were paying $5 a day — a day! — to local people for being extras. That was really good money in those days, more money than most of us had seen in a long time. That picture was beneficial for the whole area.”
Dabbs Greer has appeared in almost 100 movies spanning over 5 decades, and with almost 200 TV guest appearances.
Dabbs Greer first appeared on TV in pilot episode of “The Adventures of Superman” in September 1952. Some of Dabbs most famous roles are his sci-fi films of the 1950’s with movies like, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1956) — “It ! The Terror from Beyond Space” (1958) — “The Giant Claw” (1957) and “The Vampire” (1957).

On television, Dabbs appeared in several classic TV shows such as, “The Twilight Zone,” and three appearances on “The Untouchables,” “How to Marry a Millionaire”, “Picket Fences,” and “Gunsmoke.” Dabbs also appeared in the pilot of “The Brady Bunch” in 1969 marrying Mike and Carol Brady who would later reprise that role in the adult version of the “The Brady Bunch” in the 1990 series “The Brady’s” marrying Mike and Carol Brady’s youngest son, Bobby.

Dabbs Greer will probably be best remembered by fans for his role as the loveable Reverend Robert Alden on Michael Landon’s “Little House on the Prairie.” Dabbs Greer loved his role and always spoke highly of the show and its cast in interviews over the years. In weeks before his passing some of the cast of “Little House on the Prairie” visited with Dabbs to celebrate his 90th birthday. Susan McCray, casting director for “Little House on the Prairie” and friend of Dabbs Greer had the following to say about his work and passing, “We are all saddened by the passing of our beloved Revered Alden but he will live on in our hearts forever. He had a great impact on those who were and are fans of “Little House on the Prairie” Michael never ceased to be emotionally affected by his dramatic scenes as we all were. Dabbs had an incredible career and lived a joyous life. We will miss him terribly.”

Dabbs Greer never married and had no survivors, but fans will miss him, and he will indeed be thought of offten. In television series, and films usually the lead actor receives most of the credit. However, it is often said that the little actor who isn’t the lead is who makes the television series, and films enjoyable to watch, and with Dabbs Greer he is indeed one of our favorite character actors whose work and talent will live on for years to come making new fans everywhere and most of all, keeping people smiling thanks to television.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura DVD Review

Almanzo Wilder, the boy Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about in her book “Farmer Boy,” a man that Laura would marry and have one child with, but how much do we really know about Almanzo Wilder other than what is written in “Farmer Boy” and Laura’s notes? Dean Butler the actor who is known for his performance as Almanzo Wilder in Michael Landon’s “Little House” TV series has answered that question and more in his newest in-depth biographical documentary titled, “Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura,” which is a true masterpiece and very well produced.

The documentary starts with an on screen welcome by Dean Butler and begins with the history of the Wilder’s dating all the way back to the 16th century and slowly into Almanzo’s time period featuring historical photos, reenactments and special effects with the famous Garth Williams illustrations from “Farmer Boy.” Dean narrates the film along with his wife Katherine Cannon who provides the voices for the characters which brought lots of flavor to the project along with the peaceful music score playing through the documentary. The documentary covers almost anything anyone would like to know about the life of Almanzo Wilder with tons of footage of the Malone farm, on screen interviews with historian William Anderson, Barbara Walker who is known for the “Little House Cookbook” and more.

What impressed me so much? The cinematography! Wow! The way historical photos and the famous Garth Williams illustrations were being presented through different animation and camera effects, especially with the sound effects was beyond words. It made you feel and experience that time period which reminded me of the Ken Burns Civil War documentary.

The filming of different scenes were done really well. Not jumpy at all, again, very professional. I enjoyed the close up scenes of the flower and the shot of the book being read gives the viewer the feel of being on the farm.

Especially, when the camera was shooting subjective shots at certain parts at the farm made me feel I was there in Malone. Other scenes that I think will be enjoyed were the pioneer living and civil war re-enactment footage scenes.

The image on the documentary was very clear and colorful. The lighting was perfect indoor and outdoor. The audio was also very clear and sounded perfect. The DVD menu is easy to navigate, but didn’t have any scene selections. However, a really cool bonus feature is available called “Wilder Homestead Today” which gives the viewer an in depth tour of the Malone farm, the history of the property and is also narrated by Dean Butler which also gives the viewer a feel like they are on a tour with Dean right at Malone.

I have seen many historical documentaries, but this one really impressed me and after watching made me want to re-read “Farmer Boy” again and visit the Wilder homestead in Malone, NY. I found this documentary to be outstanding and highly recommended for those who are reading or studying the “Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I don’t even think you need to be a fan of the books or TV series or know anything about the “Little House” books to enjoy this documentary. Dean Butler has produced a masterpiece that will be cherished for generations to come and should win awards for its outstanding cinematography.

“Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura” can be purchased exclusively through the Almanzo Wilder Farm in Burke, NY for 21.95 plus shipping and handling. The total run time is 53 minutes. To purchase click here.