There were surprisingly few 19th-century pioneer fashions on display at the Guthrie Theater Aug. 15 for the premiere of "Little House on the Prairie." Rachel Portman, the British composer who created the show's music, had outfitted her daughters, Guilia and Niky, with bonnets and aprons. Leah Erickson, a little girl from Minnetonka, dressed in a patchwork peasant dress and crocheted sweater. It was "as close as we could get," said her mother, Sarah.
Most costumed Half Pints with tickets to the musical probably plan to attend matinees. Opening night, on the other hand, was the domain of parents and close friends of the performers, as well as big-shot donors. Two hours before the 7:30 p.m. curtain, performers two-stepped in frontiersmen's Sunday best for an exclusive donor reception on the riverfront patio. How thrilling to see their prairie dresses twirl before the enormous portrait of Anton Chekhov!
At 6 p.m. in the lobby, star Melissa Gilbert kissed her family and disappeared behind the stage door. Twin Cities singer Norah Long, a member of the production's ensemble, strutted in the direction of the front door while her long, gauzy dress flapped in the wind. By chance, Barbara and Ed Anderson, from Woodbury, arrived at the theater at the same time as their son Mathias, a New York-based actor who also performs in the ensemble. The three posed for a snapshot before an embrace, a kiss and several utterances of "good luck."
Upstairs, outside of the McGuire Proscenium Stage just before show time, we caught Guthrie board member Frank Guzzetta as he hurried into the theater with Siobhan Cleary, wife of Guthrie Artistic Director Joe Dowling. This polished pair stood out in a sea of khakis. We may not have found the costumed kiddies we'd hoped for. But it was more surprising to see how many theatergoers had dressed for a theatrical world premiere in attire more suited to farm work.
Christy DeSmith is a freelance writer.