Kelly OuryMany moons ago a young woman was given a test to see if she was a real princess. As Hans Christian Andersen told it, the queen placed a tiny pea under twenty mattresses, knowing that any real princess would surely be sensitive enough to feel the pea and be kept awake by the discomfort. Some older versions of the story suggest that the girl was tipped off beforehand about the pea. But only the traveling Minstrel knows the true story. He, or in this case she, was there. And thus it is that we finally get the scoop on what actually happened in that long-ago kingdom, delivered through the vehicle of musical theatre in a show called Once Upon a Mattress.

Kelly Oury stars as our informative minstrel, narrating the tale with great character, humor, energy, and vocals, tossing even more obscure truthiness into the story by describing some of the failed “princesses” before the pea incident – like about the girl with the ugly stepsisters and the toad-kisser. And then we get to the current princess, the moat-swimming princess from the swamplands who takes the castle by storm, causing a conniving queen to connive overtime, a hopeful prince to become even more hopeful, and a hopeful kingdom of people bursting to get married reason to sing her praises. Praises to Fred.

That’s short for Winnifred, And Anneliese Farmer plays our princess from the swamp, doing so with a good sense of humor, charisma, and sadness when her beloved swamp dress gets torn apart to make some rags. Michael Deni is Prince Dauntless, the guy eager to marry Fred, who has been under the thumb of his overbearing mom for too long. Hannah Jenkins is a hoot as the intimidating Queen Aggravain who rules her kingdom with an iron fist. King Sextimus would complain, but he’s mute. Which doesn’t stop Sean Moritzky from entertaining us as he frets over teaching his son about the birds and the bees (bursting with pride when his son finally gets it), and while he explains how he will be able to protect a damsel in distress outside the castle (he does some shadow boxing).

Laurel Ellis, Hannah Jenkins, and Sean MoritzkyThat damsel in distress is the lovely Lady Larken who is a little less than nine months away from an embarrassing revelation, with Jaclyn O’Hara doing a nice job as the infatuated but stressed Larken who gets more stressed as time wears on and her infatuation with Sir Harry gets tested. Johnathan Hicks is said Harry with a good mix of arrogance and humor (when Larken exclaims that they can now get married, Harry faints dead away).

Elsewhere, Laurel Ellis kicks some laughs into the show as a melodramatic Jester who charms in her Very Soft Shoes. Carrie Buechner is a riot as a Lady in Waiting who gets way drunk after stealing some sips of a little opium-laced milk. All the ladies help Fred in her reminisces of The Swamps of Home, and the cast has a fun time with their bows including the knights riding in with coconuts a la Monty Python and the king demanding that the queen take a bow. The bows being well deserved in Director Tammy Franklin’s entertaining retelling of how that princess and that pea came to be.

Performs April 10 - 12, 2008.

Rob Hopper
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~

Princess Winnifred: Anneliese Farmer
Prince Dauntless: Michael Deni
Lady Larken: Jaclyn O'Hara
Sir Harry: Johnathan Hicks
Queen Aggravain: Hannah Jenkins
Johnathan Hicks and Jaclyn O'HaraKing Sextimus the Silent: Sean Moritzky
Jester: Laurel Ellis
Wizard: Rob O'Hara
Minstrel: Kelly Oury
Nightingale of Samarkand: Gina Vitgenos
Princess #12: Ally Pines
Laides of the Realm:
Carrie Buechner
Angela Jay
Ally Pines
Gina Vitgenos
Knights of the Realm:
Elliot Clough
Peter Franklin
Micah Jenkins
Tyler Jenkins

Director: Tammy Franklin
Choreography: Buffy Barfoot
Musical Director/Accompanist: Sheri Despain
Technical Director: Eric Franklin


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