Esther explained the whole Broadway thing to us in the comments. Thanks, Esther, for educating me! It really helps.
Well normally, you’d have an out-of-town tryout, followed by a move to Broadway, followed by a national tour a year or so later. You wouldn’t have one production open on Broadway while another production opens on tour.
But of course after a show has been on Broadway for a year, you could have one or more touring companies at the same time that it’s playing in New York, like Hairspray and Wicked and Mamma Mia! have, for example. The sets are usually a little scaled down so they can be moved easily from city to city, the choreography may be changed slightly to accommodate a smaller stage and they could even eliminate a song. But usually it’s pretty much the same show that you’d see in New York.
And yes, the touring company would have an entirely different cast from the Broadway production. One in awhile, the Broadway actors do go on tour with a show, but that’s pretty rare. (I think a couple of the Mary Poppins actors will tour when that show goes out next year(). I wouldn’t expect Melissa Gilbert or Kara Lindsay to tour, but you never know. They might go to a couple big cities with it, like Los Angeles or Toronto, where a show would stay for a few weeks. But I can’t see Melissa Gilbert going on a nationwide tour where she’s in a different city every weekend!
Sometimes a show will skip Broadway entirely and just tour. There’s a production of Happy Days, based on the tv show, that’s touring but was never on Broadway. I think that’s probably what the Little House producers originally intended but I think they’re also keeping their options open, especially with the buzz that’s building at the Guthrie.
Ideally, they’d love to take it to Broadway. That increases a show’s marketability when it goes on tour, especially if it manages to win a Tony award. But Little House has such great name recognition, it doesn’t need awards. It could probably skip Broadway, go right out on tour and do great. Still, Broadway’s like the major leagues. If you’re an actor or a composer or a producer, you want a chance to play in the big leagues.
If anyone’s heading to the play during these first few opening days, report back, or let us know where the reviews are. How exciting this all is!