ONCE UPON A MATTRESS takes its inspiration from The Princess and the Pea, adding in backstory, characters, and songs that result in a thoroughly enjoyable production. Director David Leavitt has done an excellent job of casting this show and showcasing each actor’s talents. Every singer was solid, and the choreography was energetic without being overreaching. The performers embraced their characters, and each other, creating a positive vibe that was evident both onstage and off.
As a prelude to the tale, the Minstrel (Tali Trofa) sang a more traditional version of the Princess tale. Her lovely voice and warm presence made for an inviting introduction. The story then began in the royal hall where the latest princess was being quizzed. Prince Dauntless (Glen Haber) can wed only when he meets the right princess, as determined by his mother Queen Aggravain (Michele Loor Nicolay). All other courts weddings are also on hold. King Septimus the Silent (Todd Barton) doesn’t have much to say on the subject, but is aided by his interpreter/Jester (B. Ever Hanna). Overseeing the princess vetting is the Wizard (Robert Monroe). Princess No. 12 (Isabel Bowser) makes a valiant effort, but is no match for the queen.
Lady Larken (a sweet voiced and graceful Lindsay Kulp) ups the marriage ante by informing swain Sir Harry (Jason Schaum, who can’t help being likable, even when Sir Harry is sort of a jerk) that they are now under a time limit. Taking matters in hand, Sir Harry resolves to go on a princess quest. He returns with Princess Winifred (Kristen Danley). Danley is not what anyone suspects, and is downright huggable. Her “Fred” is friendly and boisterous and it would be impossible not to like her. Dauntless agrees. Haber gets the prince just right – he is a good soul, naïve without being stupid. His father the King is much the same. Barton communicates without words and exudes ineffectual charm. The Queen, on the other hand, is a big ol’ meanie. Michele Loor Nicolay is the perfect fairy tale villain – scary without being terrifying, and human underneath the surface…perhaps way, way, underneath.
Plotting to help Dauntless and Winifred are the Jester, Wizard, Minstrel and ensemble. Basically, everyone who isn’t the queen. In the manner of all good fools, B. Ever Hanna’s Jester is nimble, both mentally and bodily. He never upstages the King, but projects a certain authority, despite the pantaloons of buffoonery. The Wizard is also something of a masquerader, and Robert Monroe is very comfortable with his simple magic tricks and sideshow manner. And yes everyone, from the royal personages down to the lowliest villager can sing!
Most of the action takes place in the throne room, but director Leavitt keeps things interesting by having different actors portray standard bearers. The flags break up the set, add color, and give the actors movable set pieces to work around. And this ensemble does lots of moving around. There are numerous dances and crowd scenes that make each cast member of ONCE UPON A MATTRESS an important part of the show. The choreography isn’t too complex, and it looks like the actors are having fun. Ensemble includes: Tom Aberant, Christopher Betzler, Isabel Bowser, Liz Brennan, Mia Carter, Carolyn MeMayo, Elexandra Kohlburn, Jessica Lewis, Erin Maguire, Richard Pogolowitz, David Richman, Taylor Simone Simmons, Michael Stadnicki, Maggie Szeder and Carmen Walton.
This is not a deep show, but it certainly was a fun one. Engaging and embraceable, and, unfortunately, over. Last show date was March 18th. If you missed it, try to catch their next show DON’T DRESS FOR DINNER, opening on May 5th.
Narberth Community Theater, 6376 City Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19151
Narberth Community Theater
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