ONCE UPON A MATTRESS Absolutely Sparkles at DCP

by Lisa Panzer

Michael Romito, Levi Hogan, and Kent Gerhart in a scene from ONCE UPON A MATTRESS. (Photo credit: Colleen Algeo)

Director Ray Thompson has assembled a stellar cast and crew for ONCE UPON A MATTRESS, a whimsical musical comedy adaptation by Mary Rodgers and Marshall Barer of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Princess and the Pea, with a few added twists and nary a dull moment! Prince Dauntless (sweetly portrayed by Samuel Miller) must find a princess to marry before anyone else in the kingdom can be married, however his overbearing mother, Queen Aggravain (smartly done by Cindy Gerhart) makes sure all who apply for the position fail her ‘proper’ princess tests. Sir Harold (deftly done by David Williams) and Lady Larkin (given a lovely voice by Victoria Henry) have a particularly pressing need to be married sooner rather than later, so Harry goes off on a ‘princess quest’ and returns with Winnifred (sparkling performance by Madison Hart), A.K.A Fred, a moat swimming princess from the swamps. All, including the prince, like her very much, except of course the prince’s mother. King Sextimus the Silent (fabulously funny rendition by Kent Gerhart), father of Dauntless has no real say in the matter, as he has been made mute by a curse that can only be reversed “when the mouse devours the hawk”. (The King does, however, manage to perform a song as part of a trio; A ‘must see’!). Twenty mattresses and one pea later, this show never ceases to be funny, brilliantly executed, and resplendently entertaining!

From the opening notes of music, “conducted” by Assistant Music Director Mark Baliles, and the well blocked, choreographed manner in which the cast first entered the stage, miming in character, the synergy, spirit and wit of the this production are evident. Michael Romito’s dulcet toned voice and wry wit serve well in his role as the Minstrel, especially against Kent Gerhart’s super funny mannerisms and antics as the mute but libidinous King Sextimus. Samuel Miller’s Prince Dauntless is likeable, capturing the audience’s sympathy, and he smoothly manages the transformations in his character. Cindy Gerhart’s strong, balanced performance as the domineering, yet comedic, Queen Aggravain is a nice constant throughout the show, offsetting the other characters to advantage. Madison Hart’s Winnifred made quite a splash with the audience (filled to capacity) when she leapt onto the scene from the castle’s moat; her energy and superb voice immediately illuminating the stage. Alfred Benelli does Wizard quite well, and Victoria Henry and David Williams complement their characters, Lady Larken and Sir Harold, splendidly. Dane McMichael gave the Jester amazing expression, voice and a hyperkinetic physicality, bringing his diverse talents into the audience, especially with his solo “Very Soft Shoes”.

The supporting actors, ensemble (Sir Luce (Jason Martin); Sir Studley (Michael Covel); Lady Beatrice (Julia Witwer); Lady H (Mary Beth Penjuke); Lady Lucille (Caris Baliles); Lady Mabell/Princess #12 (Kristi Szczesny); Lady Merrill (Ali Tomasevich);Lady Rowena (Erin Baliles); nights (Seth Baliles, David Henry, Jim Hern, Christopher Sakelarides); Ladies (Barb Bettin, Brittany Kinney, Kat Whalen, Abby Witwer) and Wenches (Reba Baliles, Beth Leary Hegedus, Amy Peart)) excel, particularly in that all are engaged in some kind of movement or stage business at any time when not dancing, or enjoying moments in the spotlight. Beth Leary Hegedus’s portrayal of Nightingale as a little “cuckoo”, makes the role more notable, while embuing her with a beautifully rich sound. Good comedic pairing reigns throughout.

Cindy Gerhart & Al Benelli in a scene from ONCE UPON A MATTRESS at dcp theatre. (Photo credit: Colleen Algeo)

Over 50 “castle artisans”, volunteered their time and efforts to help with the attractive and well designed set (Caris Baliles), impressive variety of period costumes (Cathy Zeller), especially Queen Aggravain’s wardrobe, impressive props and other technical feats accomplished by sound (Bill Thompson), light (Sarah Latta). Music Director, Victoria Henry and Choreographer, Mary Watson’s work are appealing to eye and ear, as singing and movement appear well coordinated, and the large cast of actors keep tempo and kept up their energy and facial expressions. The dance numbers are delightful!

A full house showed their appreciation with wondrous applause for a show that is upbeat and sparkling from beginning to end; A superbly entertaining production.

Music by Mary Rogers
Lyrics by Marshall Barer
Book by Jay Thompson, Marshall Barer and Dean Fuller
Directed by Ray Thompson
Music Direction by Victoria Henry
July 19 – August 3, 2013
dcp theatre
795 Ridge Road
Telford, PA 18969

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