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Fairy Tale with a Twist

The Westfield Theatre Arts Department will present the musical comedy "Once Upon a Mattress" May 8-11 at the Westfield High School theater on Stonecroft Boulevard in Chantilly.

Scott D. Pafumi directs this twisted take on the traditional fairy tale "The Princess and the Pea." Jessica Lardin, Westfield's choral director, is the musical director and Laura McBride, the school's band director, is the orchestra director.

"By popular community demand and in response to Westfield Theater winning the 2002 Cappie for Outstanding Musical, I'm directing another musical that celebrates the spectacle and energy of this genre of theater. After years of teaching the style of fairy tales and storytelling in my classroom, I feel this show responds to the true need in all of us to watch the fantasy land of a royal kingdom at play," said Pafumi.

"Once Upon a Mattress" centers around Princess Winnifred the Woebegone (Courtney Reed) who swims the moat and arrives dripping wet to the kingdom of the mute King Sextimus (Reaves McEleveen) and his bossy wife, Queen Aggravain (Stephanie Rapp), to vie for the hand of Prince Dauntless the Drab (Kevin Knickerbocker). A spell has been cast on the kingdom, and nobody can get married until Prince Dauntless takes a wife. Queen Aggravain has stated that the boy will wed only a true princess of royal blood. When Princess Winnifred declares herself a contender for the Prince's hand, the Queen devises a clever test to determine whether this self-proclaimed princess is worthy of her son. Colorful characters also live in the castle including the desperate knight Sir Harry (Barry Armbruster), his impatient fiancée Lady Larken (Emily Brown), the Jester (Jesse Leahy), the Wizard (Jon Lawlor), and the Minstrel (Derek Rommel). The cast of 40 sings and dances their way through the production, which includes such songs as "Shy," "Happily Ever After," and "Yesterday, I Loved You."

"I'm so excited to be playing Winnifred," said Courtney Reed, a senior. "I've always loved this musical and it's so fun to be in it for my last Westfield production." Reed previously appeared in Westfield's "Dancing at Lughnasa," "Godspell," "Hamlet," and Westfield Summer Stage's "Snoopy," and she is also a performer with Encore Theatrical Arts Project.

"Once Upon a Mattress" was originally written by Mary Rodgers (daughter of Broadway composer Richard Rodgers) and Marshall Barer as part of an adult summer camp. The original one-act version was so well-received that they decided to expand it into a full-length musical. "Once Upon a Mattress" opened on Broadway in 1959, with Carol Burnett playing the part of Princess Winnifred. The show enjoyed a successful revival on Broadway in 1997 with Sara Jessica Parker in the leading role.

Student technical leaders include assistant director Georgette Flood, stage manager Jenn Henderson, technical director Kristen McDermott, plus a crew of 20 designers, stage hands, set builders, and lighting and sound operators. Former Disney costumer (and parent volunteer) Maria Vetsch is designing the costumes, which will be elaborate recreations of the medieval and Renaissance clothing. Yvonne Henry and Lori Knickerbocker are the choreographers and Ashley Ford is the dance captain.