The Orange County High School of the Arts in Santa Ana has a program to introduce new and younger students to their school, and they recently put on a weekend run of Once Upon a Mattress with a cast ranging from seventh to tenth graders, giving some of them their first experience in a full theatrical production. And under the direction of Charna Felthous, they put on a charming production of that whimsical musical comedy – a fractured fairy tale version of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Princess and the Pea.

Kendall Quan is said princess, Princess Winnifred from the swamplands who prefers to be called ‘Fred.’ After eagerly swimming the moat to get to her would-be prince, Fred wreaks havoc on the kingdom’s men in Shy, croons over her beloved Swamps of Home, laments her lacking of Happily Ever After with vigor, and shows off during her prince’s amusing Song of Love with an aria that begins to sound like a Tarzan roar the drunker she gets and a wrestling match with her would-be fiancé that ultimately sends Prince Dauntless (an excited Parker Severns) being thrown into Sir Harry.

Her nemesis, and the nemesis of the entire kingdom, is Queen Aggravain, with 13-year-old Madison Nichols performing with a regal, vain, and haughty air, doing a nice job with her Sensitivity solo and the challenging fast-talking monologue as she explains to her anguished son how important it is that he marry a true princess – just like herself. Stealing his scenes is the queen’s mute husband, King Sextimus, and an unforgettable performance by 12-year-old Blaine Bryant – a natural physical comedian who plays it to the hilt as he mimics his wife with great melodrama, displays a knack for charades, boasts many terrific expressions and, after several frustrating attempts, manages to teach his son the facts of life without saying a word. After which he proudly gives his son a noogie and invites him out for a beer.

Other good performances come from Emily Kirsch as Lady Larken with a nice voice and demeanor who is clearly proud to be on the arm of her manly and amusing Sir Harry (Skyler Garn), together combining for a good duet of Yesterday I Loved You. Zach Tafoya is a funny and emotional Wizard to the queen, and Alexandra Durlene is a good, introspective Jester who dances well in her Very Soft Shoes.

The young cast did an excellent job and kept their focus during a few opening night lighting glitches. They performed in Alissa Trevino’s classy-looking castle set, which Fred hopes will be her new home away from her swamps of home.

Performs April 3 - 5, 2008.

Rob Hopper
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~
Queen Aggrarion: Madison Nichols
King Sextimus: Blaine Bryant
Jester: Alexandra Durlene
Minstrel: Taylor Maddox
Prince Dauntless: Parker Severns
Princess Winnifred: Kendall Quan
Lady Larken: Emily Kirsch
Sir Harry: Skyler Garn
Wizard: Zack Tafoya
Sir Studley: Kevin Bakenie
Sir Luce: Peter Holmstrom
Knight: Hoku Brown
Lady Beatrice & Princess #12: Kaitlin Takorian
Lady Rowena: Marlea Otis
Lady Merril: Emma Plotnik
Lady Lucille: Maddie Peckenpaugh
Lady Mabelle: Mahala Hughes
Ladies in Waiting:
Tennessee Mills Gardner
Sophie Sahagun
Alex Ziegler
Nightingale: Emma Plotnik

Director: Charna Felthous
Musical Director: Chuck Gross
Choreographer: Charna Felthous
Technical Director: Joey Ancona
Sound Designer: Rebecca Kessin
Lighting Designer: Shawn Fiddler
Set Design: Alissa Trevino
Costume Designer: Sarah Figoten
Stage Manager: Daphne "Panda" Ieradi


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