Once Upon A Mattress is a musical comedy, basically a spoof on fairy tales (and Disney movies). It is loosely based on “The Princess & The Pea.” Centered around an evil queen who wont allow any of the other princes and princesses to marry until her awkward son does. Every princess that comes to the castle to court the prince is categorically pushed away by the conniving queen and her sidekick the Wizard.
Your experience with Once Upon A Mattress begins the moment you walk into Notre Dame College’s Regina Hall Auditorium, when you are greeted by the princes and princesses of the royal court. I was ushered to my seat by the dashing, handsome Flynn Rider, portrayed by the equally dashing Connor Reese (CATS). The staging is simple but effective, a lighted background with several gold picture frames hung at different heights. Reminiscent of Sondheim on Sondheim. The lighting is perfect.
The show opens with the Minstrel (Brian Marshall) setting up the tale, and mixing in several current pop-culture references. Marshall gets the laughter started immediately and sets the audience at ease with the knowledge that this is not a piece of high brow theatre, but a damn good time. Marshall’s comedic timing is flawless, vocals spot on, and his stage presence never ceases to amaze me.
The ensemble numbers in this program are stellar. The choreography is tight and the chorus articulate. The stars of the show are Pierre Jacques-Brault as Queen Aggravain, yes you read that correctly, and Kelvette Beacham as Princess Winnifred. Brault breaks out his best drag for the performance and gives a sassy, attitude laden performance that is absolutely hilarious. The majority of the laughs in the show come from Beacham who, I learned in a conversation with Brault after the show, was (along with Marshall) given a great deal improvisation room with the outdated script. She improvs her way through some of the funniest moments in the show and is an absolute delight to watch.
The young, unmarried Prince Dauntliss is portrayed by Dan DiCello (Avenue Q). Remember Nelson, the “you’re gonna loooose” kid from the 1992 Tom Hanks film A League Of Their Own? That was DiCello’s inspiration for Dauntliss, he nails it! In a last minute cast change, the role of the skirt-chasing, mute King Sextimus was picked up by Music Director Eddie Carney, who does an absolutely brilliant job managing a principle role in the show, while also being the sole instrumentalist. True professionalism.
Kaitlyn Dessoffy is adorable as Tinkerbell, Joenathan Banks is delightfully flamboyant as The Wizard, Tasha Brandt (CATS) is flawless as the unfortunately un-funny Jester. In fact, the only weaknesses to this production are a few student cast members who are very strong vocally, but are not quite actors…yet. 99% of the principle cast, however, are outstanding.
Once Upon A Mattress is absolutely hilarious and will have you laughing from the opening curtain. Mercury Summer Stock nailed this one! Grab tickets at MercurySummerStock.com before this show closes on July 21st.
Check out my interview with Pierre Jacques-Brault and Kelvette Beacham!