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Once Upon a Mattress (Review)

Jersey Productions show has too many lumps

By Rick Pender · December 16th, 2009 · Onstage
How can a theater company take a charming musical based on a fairy tale and turn it into an evening of charmless showboating? Jersey Productions has done so with Once Upon a Mattress, based on the story of “The Princess and the Pea.” This 1959 show was created with a cheeky attitude: Princess Winnifred the Woebegone is unkempt and unpolished, not at all a traditional match for Prince Dauntless. In fact, her nickname is “Fred.” Making matters worse, domineering Queen Aggravain has successfully prevented every matrimonial candidate from succeeding by putting her to impossible tests.

Alas, director Ellie Mooney has failed to take hold of two powerful performers to make this a coherent production. Broadway veteran and local professional Pamela Myers is so over-the-top as Aggravain that she appears to be doing a one-woman show, hamming up every scene she’s in onstage.

As Winnifred, Kaitlin Becker is using a style of humor that’s very contemporary. Unfortunately, she’s surrounded by barely adequate performers who are acting as if they’re in a traditional fairy tale. Max Monnig (the prince) can sing, but his acting skills are uneven. He takes too literally his character’s name, “Dauntless the Drab.”

Elizabeth Worley and Bryant Smith as a lady and knight desperate to be married (a baby is on the way) and Travis Custer as the minstrel who frames the tale have fine voices. But they aren’t the focal point of the show. The entire production, which started more than 10 minutes late for its first performance, felt under-rehearsed on opening night, especially the 16-piece orchestra and much of the clumsy choreography.

There’s a tongue-in-cheek number in Once Upon a Mattress about “Sensitivity” and another about a princess being a “delicate thing,” but there’s little that’s sensitive or delicate about this crass production.

ONCE UPON A MATTRESS, presented by Jersey Productions, continues through Saturday. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.



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