This kingdom has got an opening for a princess — but not just any princess. She must be good enough, nice enough, sweet enough, smart enough, and rich enough for poor Prince Dauntless … no wonder this kingdom is in such a bind. Homeschool Instructional Theatre Society’s production of Mary Rodgers’ and Marshall Barer’s “Once Upon a Mattress” was a delightful effort and well received by the audience.
“Once Upon A Mattress,” in which stage and TV legend Carol Burnett made her Broadway debut as Princess Winifred the Woebegone in 1959, is based upon the children’s fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea.” No one can get married until the pitiable Prince Dauntless the Drab finds a genuine, certified princess. This is especially troubling for maternal bride-to-be Lady Larken and her Sir Harry. Will a girl who can pass the Queen’s impossible royalty test ever be found?
Chelsea Cook was entertaining to watch as the swamp-dwelling, moat-swimming Princess Winifred. Good comedic timing and a strong stage presence made for a genuine, vivacious character. She was especially enjoyable to watch as she revealed her terribly timid side in “Shy.” Opposite Cook was Daniel Hyland as the anxious Prince Dauntless. Hyland demonstrated sincerity in his interactions with Cook and his father, King Sextimus the Silent, played by Ben Hayes. Hayes deserves commendation for his comedic portrayal of a challenging character.
Taylor Hart as the not-so-silent, overbearing Queen Aggravain and Sarah Hayes as Lady Larken both gave solid performances. With a constant presence and energy onstage, Hart and Hayes were both able to create memorable, well-rounded characters. Alex Badley as the Wizard and Mike Schuster as Sir Harry also gave memorable performances. Although his time on stage was limited, Zach Noble gave a standout performance as the Nightingale.
The costumes, constructed by Brynn Deakins, Chelsea Cook, and Sarah Hayes, were beautiful, reflective of the time period and setting of the play. The set, designed by Mike Schuster, Elizabeth Angel, Virginia Cunningham, and Marcus Lewine, suited the show’s medieval feel. The lighting design by Adam Cook stayed ever sensitive to the mood and feeling of the play.
Despite some slow transitions and a lack of energy, the cast was able to maintain a high level of professionalism throughout, hardly ever breaking character.
Homeschool Instructional Theatre Society’s show made for a delightful evening at the theater. “Once Upon a Mattress” will be performed Friday, March 30, and Saturday, March 31 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, March 31 at 2 p.m.
Cappies is a high school critics and awards program involving 50 schools in the Virginia, Maryland and D.C. areas.