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‘Mattress’ a farcical, not-so-sleepy tale

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By Sara Miller

We all love a fractured fairy tale — perhaps even more than the original. There is something satisfying about turning the original story filled with morals and happily-ever-afters into a spoof with hilarious missteps. Such is the case in StageDoor Theatre’s high school production of “Once Upon a Mattress.” Running through Nov. 10, this show, based loosely upon Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, is sure to win your hearts.

The story offers a farcical take on the beloved tale “The Princess and the Pea.” By royal decree, Prince Dauntless the Drab (played by Ben Kassman) needs to find a bride before anyone else in the kingdom will be allowed to wed. Dauntless' mother, Queen Aggravain (played by Gretchen Franz,) keeps all candidates at a distance by inventing a series of seemingly impassable roadblocks.

Suddenly, along comes Princess Winifred (played by Kelsey Willcox). “Fred,” as the residents of the kingdom call her, is the opposite of most of the conceptions of the storybook princess; she swims moats, she is loud, and she is brave. Fred arrives in time to give hope to the pregnant lady-in-waiting, Lady Larken, who is more than ready to wed Sir Harry (played by Sam Kassman). Winifred must pass the test to prove her royal gentility so that all eager couples can finally marry.

The musical for “Once Upon a Mattress” was written in the 1950s by Mary Rodgers, the daughter of famed musical theater composer Richard Rodgers of Rodgers and Hammerstein. The original show was later expanded and opened on Broadway in the 1960s. One might assume that a 1950s musical could be a bit staid in its humor, but director Nelson Conway has amped up the fun. Musical numbers such as “Spanish Panic” and “Quiet” are filled with surprises — both musical and in the choreography.

Conway has assembled a musically and theatrically talented team to make this high-energy show a success. The cast of more than 30 high school actors is accompanied by a five-piece orchestra composed of Gwen Mayeux (clarinet), Deb Christensen (keyboard), Molly Malone (flute), Randy Runion (trumpet), and a student drummer named Kyle Burroughs.

The show’s choreographer is Maryjean Fowler. Fowler has choreographed countless shows at StageDoor and lends a contemporary twist to the show with her modern choreography.

“Opening weekend was wonderful, and we would encourage the entire community to come out and see the show,” Conway says. “We’d love to have all the little audience members dress up as princes and princesses to join in the fun.”

‘Once Upon a Mattress’

Presented by StageDoor Theatre’s High School Company

Oct. 26 through Nov. 10, Friday and Saturday nights at 7 p.m.; Sunday afternoons at 2 p.m. (Saturday, Nov 10, has two shows, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.)

At StageDoor Theatre, 25797 Conifer Road in Conifer

Tickets: Adults, $18; seniors/students, $16

For more information, visit www.stagedoortheatre.orgor call 303-886-2819.