Review

Once Upon a Mattress
by Children's Civic Light Opera

According to Hans Christian Andersen, a suspicious queen wanted to secretly confirm a girl was a real princess, hiding a single pea under twenty mattresses Ė something only a true princess could feel. The sensitive girl felt the pea, and yada yada.

Of course, thatís the cute, simple version of the tale. The rest of the story is revealed in the musical comedy Once Upon a Mattress filled with the lyrics of Marshall Barer and music by Mary Rodgers (daughter of Richard Rodgers of Rodgers and Hammerstein fame). And it is now revealed on the Childrenís Civic Light Opera stage by Director Diane Feldman and her talented cast and crew.

In the real story, Queen Aggravain doesnít ever want her son Prince Dauntless to get married, and she and her wizard have devised numerous impassable tests that would-be brides must pass if they want to prove their royal status. Itís a situation that affects not only her son, but the rest of the kingdom as well, for itís been decreed that no one else may wed until Dauntless does. Which becomes a problem when Lady Larken really, really needs to marry Sir Harry, and fast. Sir Harryís quest for a true princess takes him to the swamplands where he returns with the singular Princess Winnifred. But you can call her Fred.

Fred is played by Emma Laramie, the dynamic actress making a big entrance as she pushes down a wooden castle door, spits out some kelp from the moat she just swam, and goes on to charm the prince, the audience, and most of the kingdom with good physical comedy, vocal work, a propensity to hit people she likes, a knack for swinging around a ball and chain, and a preference to forego the beer stein and drink straight from the bottle.

Benina Stern delivers as the uppity and vain Queen Aggravain who can talk a royal blue streak when trying to explain just how much she wants her son to get married. Garrison Hall is the meek Dauntless the Drab who gets a memorable lesson on the birds and the bees by his mute father, King Sextimus, with natural comedian Benny Pitt and son shining in their Man to Man Talk. Sarah Cowan is the nervous Lady Larken getting frustrated with her Sir Harry, singing a nice but unusual solo version of the duet In a Little While, as we donít see her haughty Sir Harry (Sean Eads) for a little while longer. Selena Donayre is the Jester, a dancing fool who gets herself into a great dance-off with Queen Aggravain after the queen insists on quiet. And the part of the narrating minstrel is split in two with Deborah Halimi and Arielle Singer guiding us through the show and trying to coax some important info from an ornery Wizard (Max Light-Pacheco).

The ensemble shines throughout, with the younger ensemble members kicking off the show with a hilariously conceived and performed mini-skit of the story, transported in and off the stage in a big box like a puppet show. The ensemble being almost entirely made up of girls, the knights of the kingdom are improvised with the ladies of the kingdom holding up knightly costumes (nice turn-of-the-fourteenth-century outfits by Sarah Schuessler). It could be awkward, but clever staging, choreography (Rebecca Pappas), and movements by the cast make it one of the highlights. Which is just one of the many ways that Diane Feldman had a lot of fun with this show. That fun includes some of the amusing mattress stuffers and brilliant use of the amazing set that both looks great and functions beautifully (such as the kingís secret entrance through the fireplace). Designed by the great J.P. Luckenbach, painted by Miriam Dafford, and painted again with the beautiful lighting effects of Rob Fritz, these designers all help make the show a beauty to behold.

Performed August 21 - 23, 2009

Rob Hopper
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~
 
 
Minstrel 1: Deborah Halimi
Minstrel 2: Arielle Singer

~ Prologue Players ~
Jester 1: Emily Gross
Jester 3: Sadie Levinsohn
The Prince: Zach Monterosso
The Wizard: Ariel Okin
Jester 2: Akira Shelton
The Princess: Sierra Luna Shostac
The Queen: Caitlyn Turen

Queen Aggravain: Benina Stern
King Sextimus: Benny Pitt
Prince Dauntless: Garrison Hall
Wizard: Max Light-Pacheco
Jester: Selena Donayre
Apprentice Amelia: Hannah Lottenberg
Apprentice Arabella: Zoe Wernik
Lady Larken: Sarah Cowan
Sir Harry: Sean Eads
Lady Lucille: Olivia McKelvey-Hembree
Lady Merrill: Lauren Andelin
Lady Rowena: Zoe Wong
Lady Mabelle: Sara Laramie
Lady Beatrice: Alyssa La Pardo
Princess Winnifred: Emma Laramie
Chambermaid Emeline: Sara Andelin
Chambermaid Matilda: Bailey Mendelson
Nightingale of Samarkand: Zoe Wong

Director/Musical Director/Producer: Diane Feldman
Choreographer: Rebecca Pappas
Acting Coach: Allison Weintraub
Costume Design and Construction: Sarah Schuessler
Art Director/Assistant Scenic Designer/Lead Scenic Painter: Miriam Dafford
Lighting Design and Programming: Rob Fritz, Airlight Design
Sound Design and Engineering: Alex Aronoff
Scenic Designer/Technical Director: John Paul Luckenbach, JPL Design Productions Stage Manager: Alyce Tawil



   

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