Take the classic story of "The Princess and the Pea," subtract the usual characters, and add an outspoken, moat-swimming princess, a nervous prince and a scheming royal matriarch with an acute case of logorrhea. Throw in an inscrutable curse, a nervous lady-in-waiting and a catalog of catchy tunes, and you have "Once Upon a Mattress," the fractured fairy tale performed at Annandale High School. Their production was light and entertaining, boasting fine performances and a spirited sense of silliness.
Lindsey Mitchell was engaging from the moment she stumbled onstage as the unconventional Princess Winnifred. Obviously a gifted comedienne, Mitchell used her physicality, facial expressions, and comedic timing to equal effect; her princess was a brash, but charming outsider who kept the audience in stitches.
Eric Jurenas was a winning counterpart to Mitchell’s ebullient Princess “Fred.” His transition from petulant child to love-struck young man was endearing. Jurenas carried his childlike tone into bouncy songs like “Man to Man Talk” without compromising clarity or pitch.
Angela Siler and Paul Mathis displayed vocal dexterity as Lady Larkin and Sir Harry, lovers entangled in a complicated subplot.
Scheming and bumbling in the background, the mute King Sextimus (Samuel Rabinovitz), the Jester (Ryan Herold) and the Minstrel (Erika Rodden) provided moments of madcap humor and superb physical comedy. Furthermore, Rabinovitz’s manic pantomime, Herold’s elaborate tap dancing, and Rodden’s forceful soprano lifted the show’s sometimes lagging energy.
Although some actors were hesitant in their lines and motions, the ensemble was lively and appealing during group scenes and numbers. Their contributions, from the court’s full-throated cheering during “Song of Love” to the Lords’ wonderfully imprecise kickline during “Shy,” rounded out the zany atmosphere of this unusual kingdom.
The sparse but colorful sets, designed by LJ LaComa, Mike Farmer and Andrew Dere, likewise enhanced the castle’s festive air without overwhelming the action onstage. Similarly, Gia Veronica Boado and Judy Elahi’s props combined with Dere and Rob Siler’s lights to richly create the spooky Wizard’s (Alexander Spita) dungeon.
Annandale High School’s production of "Once Upon a Mattress" was an enchanting evening of music, comedy, and romance, complete with dancing knights, lovers’ fights and an indomitable girl named Fred.