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Review

Once Upon a Mattress
by Fountain Hills Youth Theater

The Show:  

According to Hans Christian Andersen, a suspicious queen wanted to secretly confirm whether a girl was a real princess, so she hid a single pea under twenty mattresses – something only a true princess could feel. The sensitive princess felt the pea and yada yada they all lived happily ever after.  

Of course, that’s the quaint, simplified version of the tale. The more accurate 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). In the real story, Queen Aggravain doesn’t 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. It’s a situation that affects not only her son, but the rest of the kingdom as well, for it’s been decreed that no one else may wed until Dauntless does. Which becomes a problem when Lady Larken has less than nine months to marry Sir Harry. Sir Harry’s quest for a true princess takes him to the swamplands where he returns with the singular Princess Winnifred/Fred.  

The Production:  

As usual, this Ross Collins-directed show is filled with loads of creativity and attention to detail, making the kingdom even more madcap than usual. Leading us into the fanciful kingdom is the charming Rachel Larsen as the Minstrel who gets whined into telling a bedtime story by several little girls who soon see their fractured fairytale bedtime story coming to life. And, thanks to the local Wizard’s fractured magic wand, they eventually become fully incorporated into the tale as parts of a growing tail of Wizard Mini-Mes.  

The cast bursts with creative comedians. Fourteen-year-old Carlee Coulehan is a dynamic Princess Winnifred introducing herself with a big, bold Shy, showing off with a drunken Song of Love, and fighting insomnia with lumpy mattresses, imaginary sheep, and a feisty Nightingale (Iris Lochner). Patrick Steward is a riot as a Prince Dauntless eager to marry Fred and eager to cut the apron strings to Mom. The first castle scene opens with the prince acting as a bench for Queen Aggravain, he maintains some sanity by texting as talkative Mom drones on, but gets that sanity tested as she wishes she was twenty years younger – and pauses to gaze at him with a creepy smile. Katie Male is creepy, intimidating, and hilarious throughout in the role. While Patrick Steward’s real-life twin brother Thomas Steward is Patrick’s dad and Katie’s verbally abused husband, the mute King Sextimus,  a fantastic physical comedian who uses expressions and body language to speak volumes including a chapter on the birds and bees as he teaches his son/brother about storks and such (just in case Fred passes her test). He might have also said an earful about his wife when asked if he knows what troubles can occur between a man and a woman, but fortunately for sensitive ears the Minstrel was quick to cover his mouth.  

That question was posed by an anxious Lady Larken, with Danie Grief lending lovely vocals in the role and amusing scenes with her fiancé Sir Harry (Andrew Lull) who takes the news of his impending fatherhood with a great mixture of stunned dread and forced bliss. Other highlights include Ryan Smith as the kingdom’s quirky Wizard balancing devotion to his queen and his craft and his need for adulation, Emily Pall as the lively court Jester, and Skye Brewster as a slightly psychotic Princess #12. The ensemble enchants, clearly getting the humor of the show and bringing lots of individual personality and humor as they react to crazy local laws, crazy swamp princesses, crazy spells, and a clever solution to all the craziness.  

Performed June 7 - 23, 2013

Rob Hopper
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Executive Director
National Youth Arts

~ Cast ~
 

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Lady Merrill: Summer Beckman
Princess #12/Scullery Maid: Skye Brewster
Kitchen Wench: Natalie Brothen
Sir Luce: Spencer Cihak
Winnifred: Carlee Coulehan
Ensemble: T.J. DeHart
Lady Mabelle: Claire Faulkner
Ensemble: Kathryn Faulkner
Lady Larken: Danie Grief
Ensemble: Connor Klein
Lady Lucille: Haylee Klein
Ensemble: Ava Koenig
Minstrel: Rachel Larsen
Nightingale/Ensemble: Iris Lochner
Ensemble: Makayla Lopez
Sir Harry: Andrey Lull
Queen Aggravain: Katie Male
Ensemble: Everett Zane Pall
Jester: Emily Pall
Sir Studley: Christian Pohl
Lady Rowena: Bailey Pyritz
Ensemble: Josie Sand
Wizard: Ryan Smith
Prince Dauntless: Patrick Steward
King Sextimus: Thomas Steward
Ensemble: Julia Trimble
Ensemble: Morgan Tuazon

Director: Ross Collins
Student Director: Allison Brown
Musical Director: Jay Melberg
Choreographer: Patrick Russo
Costume Designers: Mickey Courtney and Carrie Grief
Set Design: Ross Collins and Danie Beamish
Properties: Bob Lull, Linda Lull, Ross Collins, Anne Kelleher, Robin MacDougall
Hair & Makeup: Kameron Hinski
Light Design: Nick Maddox
Sound Design: Ross Collins
Stage Manager: Devin Derr

   

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