In 1959 Carol Burnett and cast performed on Broadway a quirky retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Princess and the Pea.” The show, called “Once Upon a Mattress,” was a smash. Like Andersen’s story, a want-to-be princess must prove she is so delicate that she could not sleep on a stack of mattresses if even something so small as a pea were placed between the two mattresses. This perhaps is where the road splits between Christian’s version of the story and writer Mary Rogers’s version of “Once Upon A Mattress.”
Mount Vernon Community Children’s Theatre is once again bringing Roger’s Broadway classic to the stage. This full-length musical comedy includes the characters of Prince Dauntless, Queen Agravain, King Sextimus (who happens to be mute), Sir Harry and Lady Larkin and tomboy destined to be princess Winnifred the Woebegone.
The plot is simple enough. No one in the kingdom can marry until Prince Dauntless first marries, but his mother, the conniving and bossy Queen Agravain sees to it that no one is fit enough for her son. The Queen insists each princess contender must pass a test she has devised in order to marry Dauntless. Of course each test is impossible to pass and it seems Dauntless will remain a bachelor for many years to come, if not forever.
Two important characters who have reason to be concerned of Dauntless’ impending bachelorhood is the bold Sir Harry and his beloved Lady Larkin. Harry convinces the Queen to let him seek another potential princess. He leaves the castle and after three weeks most believe he has failed. That is until a girl appears soaking wet after having swum the moat. Princess Winnifred the Woebegone has heard there is an opening for a princess and though she confesses she is shy, is here to win the honor. The Queen refuses to let someone like Winnifred marry her precious son, but Dauntless is taken with Winnifred.
The Queen plots with the Wizard, who has helped her with all the previous princess tests, to devise a test for Winnifred that she will undoubtedly fail. Together they decide to give her a test of sensitivity. She must sleep upon 20 mattresses in which a tiny pea has been discretely hidden underneath the bottom most mattress. Of course a true princess is too delicate and dainty to be able to stand the lump of a single pea beneath her bed. However to be sure Winnifred fails, the Wizard prepares a sleeping potion and the Queen plans an official ball where all will dance the latest rage “The Spanish Panic.” The ball ensues and “The Spanish Panic” is danced faster than ever with all the dancers collapsing with exhaustion, all except Winnifred who is ready to have another go.
At the end of the ball Winnifred tells Dauntless she would rather him call her by her nickname Fred. Dauntless, truly smitten with her, sings his love song and proudly proclaims “he’s in love with a girl named F-R-E-D Fred.” Now if only Winnifred can pass the mystery test his mother has planned so they and all the rest of the kingdom can marry.
Pam Peckar and Bobbie Herbst are the co-producers. Cast members include: Leigh Taylor Palmer, Belle View Elementary School; Catherine Ramos and Griffin Voltmann, Carl Sandburg Middle School; Kelsey Meiklejohn, Duke Ellington School for the Arts (Washington DC); Lauren Belayneh, Bailey Braun, Kyle Daehnke, Neely Haque, Emily Hauptle, Susie Kirby and Mary Kate Langan, Ft. Hunt Elementary School; Julia Bales, Grace Lutheran School (Maryland); Melissa Becker, Hayfield Middle School; Ryan Walker, Hollin Meadows Elementary School; Emily Whitworth, Homeschool; Laura Kirik, Mark Twain Middle School; Anthony Carrell, Mattaponi Elementary School (Maryland; Laura Wood, Olde Creek Elementary School; Clare Cahill, Daniel Comer, Amy Howell, Jenna Kraynak, Mark Kraynak, Joshua McCarthy and Shelby Wiggs, St. Louis School; Kate Shaffer, St. Mary’s School; Kendall Cunningham, Elizabeth Herbst, Daniel Levy, Kirsten Pfister, Evan Rajadhyaksha and Bryan Williams, Stratford Landing Elementary School; Kat Brewster, Walt Whitman Middle School; Bronwen Gregg, Washington Irving Middle School; McKenzie Beeby, Hilary Canary, Katie Carbone, Derek Farino, Nicole Farino and Sophia Passacantando, Waynewood Elementary School.