Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and Academy Award winning composer team up for Prairie, premiering July 7-9 at the Powerhouse Theater Season

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY — The Vassar College and New York Stage & Film Powerhouse Theater Season will premiere the musical Prairie, based on the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, from Friday, July 7, through Sunday, July 9. Featuring a cast of fifteen and live musical accompaniment, "Prairie is a show for all ages. It will appeal to fans of the Little House series and create a new generation of readers," said Beth Fargis-Lancaster, executive producer of the Powerhouse Theater. Four concert readings of the musical will be held in the Martel Theater of the Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film, including 7:00 p.m. performances on July 7 and 8, and 2:00 p.m. matinees on July 8 and 9.

The Little House books, first published over sixty years ago, are set in the mid-nineteenth century plains of Kansas and South Dakota and describe Wilder's childhood in farming communities in the unsettled American West. Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Beth Henley has captured this beloved saga for the stage, with music by Academy Award-winning composer Rachel Portman, and lyrics by Donna DiNovelli. The cast features Sara Chase (Death Takes a Holiday, Easter Rising and The Wheel) as "Laura," and Gregg Edelman (Into the Woods, 1776, Cabaret, and Les Misérables) as "Pa," in this debut presentation co-developed by Prairie director Francesca Zambello and Adrianne Lobel.

Beth Henley won both the Pulitzer Prize for drama and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best New American Play for her 1981 work Crimes of the Heart, which was later adapted into a movie starring Diane Keaton, Sissy Spacek and Jessica Lange. Henley's other playwriting credits include The Miss Firecracker Contest, The Wake of Jamey Foster, and her most recent play Impossible Marriage, which debuted off-Broadway and starred actress Holly Hunter. Henley's screenwriting credits include Miss Firecracker, Nobody's Fool and True Stories (with David Byrne).

In 1997 English-born composer Rachel Portman became the first woman to win an Academy Award for best musical score (Emma), and her work has received two other Oscar nominations (The Cider House Rules, Chocolat). Among many other well-known films, she has composed for The Manchurian Candidate, Mona Lisa Smile, and The Legend of Bagger Vance. Portman has recently completed scores for the new films Infamous, about Truman Capote, and the Hollywood remake of the Korean film The Lake House.

An internationally recognized director of opera and theater, Francesca Zambello takes a special interest in new music theater works, innovative productions, and in producing theater and opera for wider audiences. She has recently been awarded the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French government for her contribution to French culture, and the Russian Federation's medal for Service to Culture. Other honors for her work include three Olivier Awards from the London Society of Theaters and two Evening Standard Awards for Best Musical and Best Opera.

As a book writer and lyricist, Donna DiNovelli has collaborated with many artists including Francesca Zambello, on Hildegard: A Measure of Joy. Her opera, Florida has been selected for the New York City Opera's VOX series, won a Frederick Loewe Foundation grant, and was presented at the Public Theater's New Work Now! Festival. DiNovelli's other music-theater works include Twelve Dancing Princesses, No God But Yearning, Break As Many Eggs As Required, Prom and Santa Lucia. She has won commissions and fellowships from The Rockefeller Foundation, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Manhattan Theater Club, ASCAP, and the BBC.

Tickets for Prairie are $25 and can be ordered from the Powerhouse Theater Box Office, by calling (845) 437-7235 and (845) 437-5599, or visiting

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential, liberals arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Friday, June 16, 2006