Becoming Caroline Ingalls

It doesn’t look like there’s been any kind of official announcement from the official places, but according to those who know these kinds of things, in the new Little House on the Prairie musical, to debut this summer in Minneapolis, the role of Caroline Ingalls will be played by none other than Melissa Gilbert.

I’m going to full-on admit that this excites the heck out of me. I find the non-parallels between the show and the series as tiresome as the next Laura Ingalls Wilder fan, but I’m also of That Age. I spent my pre-adolescence wanting desperately to be Laura Ingalls — the brown-eyed Walnut Grove schoolgirl who visited my living room every Monday night. And it’s thanks to the “based on the Little House series of books” in white, all-cap lettering at the end of that show that I got to know the real Laura.

I can’t help but wonder how she’s going to approach the material. Will she assume Ma’s quiet, gentle firmness? Will she reread the books? Cover her ears with her hair? I guess it’s a blessing that Karen Grassle (I’ve said this before) did such justice to the role of Caroline in the first place. She’ll have a wonderful frame of reference. Has Melissa contacted her TV Mom for insight or advice? I’d love to know.

I also wonder: does Melissa see Ma the same way I do now that I’m an adult? Now that I’m a mother? Has her perspective shifted in ways she didn’t expect?

That’s a whole other blog post, I think.


5 Responses to Becoming Caroline Ingalls

  1. Dean Butler says:

    Dear Only Laura:

    Regarding Melissa Gilbert being influenced by Karen Grassle’s portrayal of Caroline…I have no idea what will happen on stage, but I do know that Melissa thought Karen was the perfect loving, beautiful mother that any child would love to call theirs. That being said Melissa’s gifts as an actress are distinct and singular so I would expect that the audience will see something that is uniquely influenced by Melissa’s essence rather than Karen. It’ll be fun to see what happens.


  2. Susan Gaissert says:

    Her own maturity and experience of motherhood must have changed how she sees the character of Ma. As Dean Butler mentioned, when she was young, she could appreciate Ma’s lovingness. Now, as an adult woman, she can better understand the pain and difficulties that sometimes lie behind the love and make its expression even more beautiful. I wish I could go to Minneapolis!

  3. Jonni says:

    According to Melissa’s recent Myspace bulletin, she has a big announcement about a job coming up for her this summer….hopefully that’ll be the official announcement that she’ll be Ma! I’m can’t wait to see the play in August!

  4. Susan Gaissert says:

    Here’s a “Six Degrees of Separation” kind of thing: another actress has played both the child and “mother” roles in the same story — Patty Duke has played both Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan. And when she played Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller was played by . . . Melissa Gilbert!

  5. Amy says:

    I can hardly wait to see it. Yay for living near the Guthrie!!

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