Gilbert about talks life off and on the 'Prairie'

Posted March 17, 2010 2:08 p.m. EDT
Updated March 18, 2010 12:14 a.m. EDT

— Melissa Gilbert grew up in front of the camera as Laura Ingalls on “Little House on the Prairie.” She starred in the series, inspired by a popular book series, for 10 years.

Now 45, Gilbert is headed back to the “Prairie” this time as Ma Ingalls in a live musical adaptation of the show.

“The music is, I think, is extraordinary. The costumes are beautiful. I just think it is a really nice night of family theater that is not based on a cartoon and that is not Disney,” Gilbert said. “There are no animatronics.”

The show might be set in a simpler time, but the energy on stage is anything but simple. Gilbert said cast members have been suffering injuries on stage. Her two herniated discs are the most severe injuries, she said.

“These people had to persevere and we have to persevere in this show,” she said. “A couple of herniated discs are nothing compared to freezing in a blizzard and having your daughter go blind.”

Gilbert’s memoir, “Prairie Tale,” was published last year. In the book, she opened up about her past substance abuse and failed relationships. Gilbert said the response she has received from the public has helped with her personal healing.

“I felt like I had given people something that helped them in their lives and that was very satisfying,” she said.

In the audience Wednesday evening for “Little House on the Prairie: The Musical," was a Raleigh woman inspired by Gilbert’s character on the TV show.

“I’ve watched it (the show) a lot when I was a child, and I still watch it everyday when I come home from school,” Stacey Bruton said.

Bruton became a teacher, just like Gilbert did on the show.

For eight seasons, Gilbert’s sister, Mary, played by Melissa Sue Anderson, started losing her sight until she eventually went blind. Mary also became a teacher for the blind on the show.

Bruton, who lost her vision when she was a baby, said the Ingalls girls becoming teachers inspired her. She said the show helps people with disabilities know that they too can follow their dreams.

“They can go out into the public, and do whatever they would like to do and make their dreams come true,” Bruton said.

“Little House on the Prairie: The Musical” runs through Sunday at the Memorial Auditorium at the Progress Energy Center for Performing Arts in Raleigh.