Once Upon a Mattress
by Mission Hills High School

Can one tiny pea beneath twenty thick, downy mattresses prevent a lady from sleeping? If she’s a true princess it will. At least, that’s according to a queen who is desperate to find any reason for not letting her dearly beloved son get married. And such is the crux of this story behind the story of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Princess and the Pea, told to the music of Mary Rodgers and told here by the group at Mission Hills High School in San Marcos, California.

As the “princess” is to be tested, so was the cast of the show who suffered a wave of illnesses and last-minute role changes leading up to opening night. But all the tests were passed as they still somehow managed to put on a fairly solid and smooth production, beginning with Patricia Schuette as the not-so-shy, less-than-genteel Princess Winnifred (Fred for short) who takes the castle by storm. And by swimming the moat.

The latter is just one of the many traits that causes mama’s boy Prince Dauntless (played very effectively by Ellery Wolfe as a relaxed, skater-dude prince) to fall in love with a girl named Fred. And it is in this Song of Love where Patricia is at her best, as in her effort to impress her prince she gets drunk, sings bad opera, and sticks her tongue out at her opponent in a thumb-wrestling match.

Of course, if she is successful in marrying her prince, she’d be stuck with Queen Aggravain as a mother-in-law, with Katie Knight as the cool, snooty, domineering, talkative queen who rules the kingdom with an iron hand despite complaining about the pains and aches of her overly sensitive body. But the good news is, Fred would have a cool father-in-law. Arnel Sancianco is brilliant as the mute King Sextimus, using his original sense of humor and body language for everything from impersonating a gnawing water rat to teaching his son about the birds and the bees. He also has great chemistry with his best friend the Jester who translates the king’s charades (and occasionally puts words in his mouth), with Megan Wiltse adding tremendous personality to the role throughout. A couple of the show’s songs featuring the Jester and King were sadly missed in this slightly shortened version.

Jeffrey Davis is Sir Harry who goes to fetch Fred after he is surprised to discover that he is an expectant father, with Devon Robinson as the anxiously expectant mother Lady Larken. Lawna Davis narrates the show as the Minstrel who becomes deeply embroiled in the fairy tale thanks to her connections with the Wizard (Katelyn Wright) who likes to show off her unimpressive magic tricks to strangers. 

Director Robert Dellorfano’s production includes some nice castle sets and costumes in which the cast of Once Upon a Mattress draws us into a very comical and dysfunctional fifteenth-century kingdom.

Performed March 15-17, 2007.

Rob Hopper
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~

Princess Winnifred: Patricia Schuette
Queen Aggravain: Katie Knight
Prince Dauntless: Ellery Wolfe
King Sextimus: Arnel Sancianco
Lady Larken: Devon Robinson
Sir Harry: Jeff Davis
The Minstrel: Lawna Davis
The Wizard: Katelyn Wright
The Jester: Megan Wiltse
Princess #12: Karli Buchwald
Knights of the Court:
Kyle Berger
Chris Geranimo
Gabriel Heath
Rhiannon Heath
Ladies of the Court:
Karli Buchwald
Ariana Caramat
Taylor Dunlap
Daryn Howard
Stephanie Neal
Marcie Robb

Director: Robert Dellorfano
Musical Director/Choreographer: Virginia Norte
Scenic/Lighting Design: Jeremy Sewell
Sound Designer: Ross Marian
Stage Manager: Kayla E. Begg


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