Melissa Gilbert, who played Laura for 10 years in the series, has come full circle and is playing “Ma” in the production. The musical tells of the family’s pioneering spirit as they settle into their new home in Kansas.
‘Little House on the Prairie’
‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’
‘A Funny Thing Happened
Vierling admits to being a longtime fan of Gilbert and says her contributions to the show have been invaluable.
“What she brings to it is a sense of history, a real sense of connection,” he says. “We worked together for many months before the tour began and now we are all a family. She is so down to earth.”
Although Gilbert’s professional singing experience has been limited, Vierling feels she has nailed that aspect.
The beloved character of Nellie Olsen also appears.
“She shows up about halfway through the first act,” Vierling says. “She is the comic relief, the levity of show.”
“Little House on the Prairie” has its darker moments, such as elder daughter Mary going blind and the family struggling with a long winter.
“It has an epic quality, but it’s not in the line of something as dark as ‘Les Miserables,’ Vierling says. “You need to have dramatic effects to show the struggles with the prairie life.”
The musical premiered in 2008 in Minneapolis where it promptly sold out for 12 weeks.
As a member of the ensemble, he has played virtually all the male characters at one time or another. He is also the show’s dance captain.
Gays and lesbians can especially relate to “Little House,” Vierling says.
“We can certainly appreciate the struggle of finding a new home, creating a family and feeling safe,” he says. “That is universal.”
‘Hedwig’ comes to LeBuzz
AtlantaLite Entertainment and the Marietta gay bar LeBuzz host a one-night version of John Cameron Mitchell’s musical “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” as a fundraiser for AID Atlanta on June 25.
“I’ve loved this show, the movie, forever,” says Nicholas Koperski, who plays the lead in the musical.
“Hedwig” tells the story of a gay man who seeks to marry another man but must have a sex change to do so. The surgery is botched, however, leading Hedwig, a punk singer, on a journey of self-discovery.
“The story, the music, the idea of searching for your other half but in essence that is in yourself is completely original,” Koperski says. “That idea of being comfortable in your own skin by giving up a piece of yourself — literally doing so in this production — and this spiritual journey you go on is what struck a rich chord with me.”
“Madonna had her ‘Evita’ and I have ‘Hedwig,’” he adds with a laugh.
Koperski, one of the Atlanta Eagle patrons in the bar the night it was raided, has never performed on stage before but knew this role was made for him.
“I’ve been singing since I could open my mouth and performing is something I’ve always loved, but this is the first musical/play I’ve been in,” he says. “And once I got the role, I started digging deeper and deeper into the character and a force greater than me has taken over.”
‘A Funny Thing’ at Lyric
Atlanta Lyric Theatre opens “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” this weekend with a gay touch: Both its director Alan Kilpatrick and main actor Glenn Rainey are gay. Rainey stars as Pseudolus, a role he first tackled back at GSU when he was 25.
“It’s such a timeless show, with vaudeville shtick type comedy and great music by Stephen Sondheim,” he says.
Rainey and Kilpatrick worked together in Aurora Theatre’s recent “Kiss Me Kate” and will share the stage in the Lyric’s upcoming version of “Hairspray” in July.
“We’ve known each other for a long time and as an actor too, he has a great feel for what works on stage,” says Rainey.
Top photo: Melissa Gilbert (center) played Laura Ingalls in the iconic television series ‘Little House on the Prairie,’ and portrays Ma Ingalls in the musical. (Photo by Carol Rosegg via Theater of the Stars)