Once Upon a Mattress
by Arts Off Broadway

The story actually happened once upon about twenty mattresses. Most of us know the tale through Hans Christian Andersen’s The Princess and the Pea. A queen tests a young woman to make sure she’s a real princess before giving permission to marry the prince. A real princess would be so sensitive that she would feel a pea even if it were buried under several mattresses. But in this hilarious musical retelling of the story, we get the real story behind the queen and the princess and the pea. And Broadway Theatre Arts Academy has a lot of fun doing the retelling.

Director Siobhan Sullivan and her cast have a great sense for the show’s comedy and several creative ways of portraying it. It begins using their younger cast members in a funny, adorable opening prelude as they silently act out the standard “Hans Christian Andersen” version of the story. And then it’s off to the “correct” version of events as witnessed by a traveling minstrel who finds himself swept up in those events (Jordan Scowcroft or Dylan Tweed). The events chronicle a desperate situation in a little kingdom where no one can get married until Prince Dauntless is wed, which is something that’s never going to happen so long as the prince’s smothering mother Queen Aggravain has anything to do with it. And she’s been not letting it happen for years by dreaming up ridiculous tests administered by the court Wizard (Tom Blanton or Trevor Davies) to prove that none of the women who come calling are true princesses.

And then in walks Fred...

The show is mostly double-cast, with both Janessa Gillette and Caraline Goodman shining in the role of Winnifred the Woebegone – the princess from the swamplands who, in her rush to see Prince Dauntless, swims the moat. Twice. Janessa is terrific as the flirty, not-so-Shy girl named Fred with charming expressions, charisma, personality and humor as we see in the prince’s Song of Love as she gets drunker and funnier with each refrain. Caraline has a very Fred-ish voice for the character and also has an excellent knack for Fred’s humor and super-strong personality. All of which excites their respective Prince Dauntlesses – with a nice job by the infatuated Chris Andrews and the swooning Trevor Sanderson who gets smart at the end of the Song of Love and lays himself out on the ground before losing another wrestling match to his super-strong princess. Trevor also raises the artistic bar for handing out intermission raffle prizes by putting on a little original song with the help of his pantomiming king (Ryan Hartzell) and Sir Harry (Riley Sanderson) on the guitar.

Both of those intermission assistants add much to the show, with Ryan Hartzell and alternatively Trevor Roglestad amusing as the mute king who communicates quite well as great physical comedians, and even manage to give their son a vital if vague lesson on the birds and the bees. And then there’s the king’s scary wife – either Kimberly Schiefer keeping a tight rein on her kingdom with a sharp demeanor and even tighter rein on her son with an obsessive demeanor, or Mia Bella Josimovic who uses great body language, intonation, and sense for embellishments (checking her “wristwatch” during the quiz for Princess #12, or baby-talking her son as she Eskimo-kisses him).

The king and queen’s son isn’t the only one eager to marry. The whole kingdom is in a tizzy. Especially Lady Larkin who, in her “moment of weakness,” has ended up the future mother of Sir Harry’s child, and is eager for that child to be born legitimate. The cast features a couple of far more humorous than normal Lady Larkens. Karina Gillette is a hoot as her face transforms instantly and completely between emotions of love, hate, worry, and sublime expectation as she reacts to Sir Harry’s words and tries to hang onto her vision of a blissful family life with her ambitious knight in shining armor, the latter played by Josh Carpenter who sings some nice, playful duets with Karina. Hollie Stutzman and Riley Sanderson make up the other Larken-Harry duo, with Hollie turning in a terrific performance including some amusing reactions to the crazy people trying to help her escape to Normandy and playing hard to get in their duet Yesterday I Loved You. Riley is equally amusing as a vain knight with a strong singing voice and sort of obsessed with the spurs he won.

Elsewhere are a couple of delightful performances by the Jesters Sandy Shyu and Nicole Robinson who dance in their Very Soft Shoes and are key to the success of The Minstrel, The Jester, And I and the attempted escape to Normandy (the second act opening with the escapees slipping in and out from behind the castle’s pillars like over-the-top spies). Ashton Taylor is an outrageously funny Nightingale who delights in being obnoxious with her “lullaby,” and pretty much deserves getting things thrown at her by a weary and cranky princess. And the ensemble does a nice job with a fast-paced Spanish Panic dance scene that eventually includes ladies in waiting getting upset and pulling each other off stage by their hair.

The production also includes some visual enhancements, with Carol Schiefer’s colorful costumes adding much to the show and Yvonne Sabo’s beautiful set being used for several of the creative ways in which Siobhan Sullivan and her group have fun with the show – like the pillars to hide behind and a water fountain for Larken and Harry to play around and a huge, gilded cage for the Nightingale to screech from, helping ensure that Princess Fred is a princess after all.

Performed March 28 - 30, 2008.

Rob Hopper
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~

Minstrel: Jordan Scowcroft and Dylan Tweed
Queen: Kimberly Schiefer and Mia Bella Josimovic
Prince Dauntless: Chris Andrews and Trevor Sanderson
King: Trevor Roglestad and Ryan Hartzell
Princess #12: Bayley Coberly
Wizard: Tom Blanton and Trevor Davies
Jester: Nicole Robinson and Sandy Shyu
Winnifred: Janessa Gillette and Caraline Goodman
Harry: Josh Carpenter and Riley Sanderson
Lady Rowena: Summer Blinco and Dakota Malbrough
Lady Merrill: Amanda Mune and Alexia Maglione
Lady Lucille: Sadie Verger and Katie Rideout
Lady Larken: Karina Gillette and Hollie Stutzman
1st Knight: Kurt Heidemann
2nd Knight: Holly Helm
3rd Knight: Matt Andrews
Studley: Nicholas Halsey
Lady H: Ryley Mueller
Kitchen Wench: Dakota Malbrough and Summer Blinco
Luce: Justin McBeth
Luce's Lady: Carly Sabo
Lady Mabella: Haley Heidemann and Katie Rideout
Nightingale: Ashton Taylor and Mckenna Barron
1st Duo: Lirenza Gillette, Morgan Muat
2nd Duo: Siena Heidemann, Natalie Hops
3rd Duo: Kristen Bollinger, Carly Sabo
4th Duo: Paloma Peterson
5th Duo: Maggie Carey, Natalie McGhee
6th Duo: Natalie Davies, Kayla Gonzalez
7th Trio: Holly Helm, Emma Dorn & Mulan McKenzie
1st Lady: Kristen Bollinger
2nd Lady: Siena Heidemann
3rd Lady: Carly Sabo
Omnes: Matt Andrews
Knights & Ladies Ensemble:
Emily Burroughs
Sabrina Drobeck
Edward Duffy
Merinda Gillette
Megan Kolod
Cameron Johnson
Will Moffat
Sophia Rideout
Cali Smith
Celine Taylor

Director: Siobhan Sullivan
Set Designer: Yvonne Sabo
Costume Design: Carol Schiefer
Musical Director: Jennefer Gillette
Stage Manager: Melissa Andrews


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