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Melissa Gilbert: From Prairie to Stage

Some actors are embarrassed by the shows that made them famous. Others embrace them. Melissa Gilbert definitely falls into the second category. The actor who became a star in "Little House on the Prairie" is now appearing in a stage adaptation of the hit show. But with a unique twist...

Melissa Gilbert portrayed Laura Ingalls Wilder for nine years on television. Courtesy Everett Collection Now, the 45-year-old actress is playing "Ma" in a stage version of the hit show. Theo Wargo/

Gilbert, who played the young Laura Ingalls during the TV show's run from 1974 to 1983, is starring as "Ma" in the stage version. News that Gilbert is back in pioneer-era garb inspired huge searches on the actress. Web lookups on "melissa gilbert" and "melissa gilbert play" each posted triple-digit gains.

The fact that Gilbert is playing a different character shouldn't come as a huge surprise. After all, it would really stretch the audience's suspension of disbelief to ask a 45-year-old to play a teenager (apologies to Luke Perry). What came as a surprise to us, as well as to Ms. Gilbert, is that the stage adaptation is a musical. The New York Post reports that Gilbert's initial response to the news was: "Are you crazy?"

Still, the actor has grown confident with the new material. She's even abstained from giving too much advice to Kara Lindsay, who has taken on Gilbert's old role. Reviews of the production appear to be mixed. The New York Times calls it "pretty and well-meaning, but a little too sincere." Meanwhile calls it "a lyrical, likeable journey," but also says the musical is "wholesome without being emotionally moving." Reviews aren't everything, however -- the show is already sold out.

Fans who cant get to the Paper Mill Playhouse might just have to wait and hope it moves to Broadway. Hey, stranger things have happened. Remember Cats?

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