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Joel Gruver is Sir Harry and and Janemarie Laucella plays Lady Larkin in Showtimers' "Once Upon a Mattress."
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
A timid prince — the son of a domineering queen and a mute king — seeks love and marriage in the current Showtimers musical, “Once Upon a Mattress.”
Will the prince find his true love and the spine to stand up to his cruel mother? Will the plucky princess so eager to find her happy ending that she leaves her home and swims a castle moat prove worthy of his hand in marriage?
Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea,” which if performed with plenty of dramatic pauses takes about five minutes to read, “Once Upon a Mattress” is a two-plus-hour musical romp that tells the tale of star-crossed lovers and their mission to outwit the conniving queen’s plan to keep them apart.
The play, set in medieval times, opens in a kooky kingdom where Queen Aggravain is determined that only a girl of royal lineage is good enough to marry her son, Prince Dauntless, and a dozen princesses have failed to pass the queen’s rigged tests to prove their mettle. The queen has also decreed that no one else in the kingdom can marry until Dauntless finds a wife, leaving many unhappy would-be lovers anxious for the prince to finally take a bride.
The king, Sextimus, is mute because of a curse that can only be broken when a mouse devours a hawk, and thus he has no say in his wife’s schemes. He is also a bit of a dirty old man, chasing all the pretty ladies-in-waiting around the castle.
Dauntless’ seemingly endless bachelorhood becomes a crisis for the kingdom’s most decorated knight, Sir Harry, when Harry discovers that he and his girlfriend, Lady Larkin, are expecting a baby. To save his and Larkin’s honor, Harry sets out on a journey to find Dauntless a proper princess bride. He returns with Winnifred the Woebegone from a faraway swamp kingdom.
The queen, needless to say, is unimpressed.
She conspires with her wizard to create a test so difficult for Winnifred that she will be gone by morning.
While the songs are not particularly memorable, the dialogue is witty and director Sharon Mullen keeps the pace lively. The scenes are campy and fun without being corny. The hilarious choreography of a ballroom scene is worth the price of admission.
Rebekah Wellons , a junior at Cave Spring High School, turns in a star performance as the brave and determined Princess Winnifred, and Cliff Grimsley is simply a delight in his mostly pantomimed role of King Sextimus. Other cast standouts include Cris Emerson as the delightfully evil queen, Drew Taylor as the cute-but-clueless prince and the always entertaining Brian O’Sullivan as the court jester.
A few dropped lines on opening night did not deter the enjoyment of the nearly sold-out house, and a couple of minor prop malfunctions were handled professionally and with humor by the cast.
The musical is family-friendly with the adult references handled in a tasteful and funny way.
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