Based on the fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea,” the musical Once Upon a Mattress at Stage Door Players is funny and entertaining. Fans of the classic, and those who will be introduced to it, will find a clever production with strong talent onstage.
With music by Mary Rodgers, lyrics by Marshall Barer and book by Jay Thompson, Marshall Barer and Dean Fuller, Once Upon a Mattress tells the tale of how Princess Winnifred (Renita James) passed the queen’s (Christy Baggett) test to be able marry Prince Dauntless (Jon Weirenga).
The story is told by the Minstrel, played by Andy Danh, who sings the well-known version of the events before telling the real story he witnessed. Although capable as a singer, Danh’s performance as the Minstrel is passionless and, therefore, unmemorable.
Instead of the narrative we all know, Princess Winnifred is actually the 13th princess to be tested by the queen when Sir Harry (Jordan Harris) brings her there from the Swamps. The prince falls for her much to his mother’s dismay. So, the queen devises a fool-proof test that will certainly send Princess Winnifred back to the swamps.
Baggett plays the role of Queen Aggravain wonderfully. From her first moments on stage to the end, she creates a funny, yet crafty villain. Vocally, she handles the song “Sensitivity” with ease. Unfortunately, the musical doesn’t feature her much more than this one song.
James’ Princess Winnifred is feisty and witty. In the role that Carol Burnett made famous, she quickly wins over the audience with her powerful vocals, amazing stage presence and charm. She balances well with Weirenga as Prince Dauntless, who couldn’t be more perfect for the role. His take on the character draws much laughter, and his comedic timing is sharp. However, the songs seem to be on the edge of his range, and he has hard time hitting a few notes.
In the role of Jester, Trey Getz give a solid performance as does Jordan Harris as Sir Harry. Caleigh Allen, as Lady Larken, is delightful. Taking a small role and making it outshine others on stage, a certain nameless artistic director (who was unmentioned in the program) makes the silent King Sextimus and his lady chasing ways extremely hilarious.
Stage Door Player’s production of Once Upon a Mattress provides a delightful, entertaining break from the daily grind. Directed by Clinton Wade Thornton, the musical runs through August 4, 2013 at Stage Door Players in Dunwoody. For tickets, please visit the theater’s website. The show’s runtime is a little over two hours with an intermission.
– Kenny Norton