‘Little House’ Musical Building, Funding Habitat for Humanity Housing


Steve Blanchard and Melissa
Gilbert in Little House on the
Prairie: The Musical

For all of the politics, pettyness and melodramatic mayhem, the American theater, be it Broadway or beyond, sports a proud tradition of altruism.

Story continues below.

The phenomenal success of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, which brought in $17.3 million in income between 2007 and 2008 (read its most recent annual report here) is a testimonial to the unflagging giving instinct that is inherent to the business and its innumerable artisans.

Marketing necessities, meanwhile, are becoming the mother of invention. Consider the recent decision by the producers of Hair to cancel the performance of Oct. 11 in order to join the National Equality March in Washington, D.C. This is a masterstroke of utter genius, begetting the revival tremendous goodwill from constituencies already disposed toward seeing the show, generating for the rest of the universe almost perfectly-pitched PR.

Now comes word of a variation: the producers of the musical version of Little House on the Prairie, which is getting ready to run at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ, following an initial tryout last year at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, has announced it will give “at least $1,500” per week’s grosses to Habitat for Humanity. Check out, if you will, the aforementioned link to the Habitat website: right there is a photo of the star, Melissa Gilbert, whose ties to the TV series Little House on the Prairie needs no introduction. Again, this is pitch-perfect PR and a deliriously intelligent buzz generator.

Will any of this change people’s views of the show? That remains to be seen. Below is the press release from publicist Marc Thibodeau:

Story continues below.

Little House on the Prairie: The Musical
Habitat for Humanity
Announce National Partnership

The producers of the upcoming national tour of Little House on the Prairie: The Musical, with Melissa Gilbert as Ma, today announced a national partnership with Habitat for Humanity, the non-profit international organization dedicated to providing affordable housing to the poor and needy. The announcement was made at a Habitat build-site in the South Bronx at which Melissa Gilbert and fellow cast members helped Habitat volunteers build the seven-story complex which will house 12 families.

As part of the partnership, the producers of Little House will donate a minimum of $1500 per week from weekly box-office receipts across the country. In addition, among several other initiatives, the cast and crew will help local Habitat for Humanity affiliates build homes in each city the show visits on its multi-city national tour. Little House on the Prairie: The Musical begins a one-month engagement at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ on Thursday, September 10.

“Habitat for Humanity is truly one of the most important, most wonderful organizations in this country and around the world,” said Ms. Gilbert. “An enduring message of Little House on the Prairie: The Musical — the importance above all of a home and a strong family — is exactly the mission of Habitat. There couldn’t be a more perfect match between a show and an organization. As we travel across the country during the next year, we are looking forward to getting involved in a variety of ways in each city to do our part to aid in Habitat’s mission to bring affordable housing to those in need.”

Story continues below.

“We are extremely grateful to Melissa Gilbert, the cast and producers of Little House on the Prairie: The Musical for supporting our mission and engaging audiences across the country to build greater awareness of the need for affordable housing,” said Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International. “The Ingalls family’s struggles in difficult conditions parallel the challenges many families face today in trying to secure better futures for themselves and their children. It’s our hope this new interpretation of an ageless classic will remind fans both young and old of the importance of a safe, simple and decent home.”

“Habitat for Humanity New York City is tremendously blessed to partner with Melissa Gilbert and the cast of Little House on the Prairie: The Musical, as they launch the newest version of this classic story — and help build Habitat-NYC’s Big Co-op in the South Bronx,” said Josh Lockwood Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity-New York City. “Today, decent shelter is as critical to families as it was to the Wilder family so many decades ago and this alliance furthers our mission to provide affordable housing and sustainable communities for families worldwide.”

Little House on the Prairie: The Musical is the uplifting story of an American family forging a new life amidst the mighty challenges, heartbreaks, joys and triumphs that face them in the newly-settled heartland. It is also the story of young Laura Ingalls, as she begins her life as a young woman, finding purpose, and finding love. Above all, it is the celebration of the pioneering spirit and the core values on which this country was founded – a spirit that still resonates today.

Story continues below.

Little House on the Prairie: The Musical had its world premiere production in August, 2008 at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, where it shattered all box-office records and sold-out for 12 consecutive weeks. Initiated for the stage by Adrianne Lobel (Frog and Toad) and Francesca Zambello, the show is directed by Zambello (Disney’s The Little Mermaid), with music by Academy Award winner Rachel Portman (Emma), lyrics by Donna di Novelli and a book by Tony Award winner Rachel Sheinkin (The 25TH Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee). The design team includes sets by Adrianne Lobel, lighting by Mark McCullough, and costumes by Tony winner Jess Goldstein.

Story continues below.

The producers of Little House on the Prairie: The Musical are Ben Sprecher, Amy Sprecher, Louise Forlenza, Bob Boyett, Jay Harris, William Franzblau, Tony Fusco, Larry Feinman, and Nelle Nugent, in association with Wendy Federman and Bob Reich.

Following its Paper Mill Playhouse engagement, LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE will begin an extensive national tour at the Ordway Theatre in St. Paul. After a two-week engagement there, the show will continue to cities including Toronto, Tampa, Naples, Raleigh, Sacramento, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta and Kansas City, among others.

Story continues below.

For more information, visit www.littlehousethemusical.com and www.papermill.org.