“Once Upon A Mattress,” a musical directed by Stephen Nachamie, opened with beautiful music and strong voices. The show, which opened Thursday, April 19, featured actors that did a fantastic job keeping the musical cheery and delightful.
The set of the show, designed by both Tim Baumgartner and Brianna Colombo, was well done. The set was large and equipped with satin drapery and a semi-translucent screen that separated the narrator from the story he described. The minstrel, Jamine Coley, did an excellent job opening and narrating the show. Princess Number 12, played by Tara Fox, put on a comedic performance following Coley. Fox acted her part as the sweet, typical princess well and played an important role in setting the tone for the show.
Right from the start, Sir Harry, played by Daniel Stalter, and his girlfriend, Lady Larken, played by Sierra Meisser, had instant chemistry. Stalter did an excellent job portraying his character as the town hunk and typical young lover. Meisser had a lovely voice, and presented herself as a torn woman, which was exactly what the role called for.
The lighting by Greg Brewster was steady throughout the show in order to keep the consistency of the medieval time period, while also changing to bolster the feelings of the townspeople and main actors. The lighting complemented the costuming, which was equally well done. It was clear that costume designer Kitty Macey had worked hard to make the costumes realistic for each role, while maintaining the integrity of the medieval era. One particularly outstanding costume was the Jester’s outfit, which was brightly colored and matched with make-up to complete the character. The music, which was professional, further added to this. The percussion was particularly fantastic.
Actor Clare Bawarski soared above and beyond in the role of Princess Winifred. Her singing was outstanding. There was minimal dancing, but when there was, she proved to be synchronized and peppy. Her stage presence was powerful, and every joke she made got laughs.
The interaction between Bawarski and Daniel Distasio, who played her love interest, Prince Dauntless, was precious. Distasio had the ability to play his character with heart, and just moments later have the audience laughing until tears. Distasio had a wide range; showing off his ability to act in love, be persuaded by his mother or even not understand messages his father was trying to send him.
The story did not progress much, during the second act, as the height of excitement was already reached before intermission, leaving the audience to suffer through a tale that would end the same way as every other tale would—with the prince and the princess falling in love. The ending does have a surprise twist, however, revealing the reason the King was mute during the show.
Some of the numbers were quite long and almost seemed to drag. With the repetitive whining of the nightingale in the number “Lullaby,” it might have been hard for some audience members to resist the temptation to close their eyes. The nightingale bird in the cage, though intentionally whiny, was one of the best props used in the show, with feathers and a moving beak.
The large cast added variety to the show. Daniel Williams played the role of the queen quite fabulously. The queen strutted her way around the stage, bringing humor to the role and never breaking character for even a moment. The queen’s silent counterpart, King Sextimus, played by Benjamin Rebstein, did an excellent job acting without speech. He should be commended for being able to exude such character and stage presence without using his voice, relying only on his body movement and gestures. The Wizard, played by Daniel Frohm, had few lines and many interesting facial expressions, most of which had the audience chuckling.
The Jester, played by Michael Cothren, had an important role in the show. Cothren portrayed his importance in addition to being funny and entertaining, as a Jester should be. The smaller roles such as the Knight, played by Jesse Lessner, the ladies in waiting or the kitchen wenches, were all roles that only added to the fun of the production. The ladies, Lady Rowena, played by Royshanna Young, Lady Merril, played by Qianhua Chen and Lady Lucille, played by Jacqueline Shikora, were all harmonious in their singing and delightful in their dancing. The Kitchen Wenches: Royshanna Young, Tara Fox and Dana Ernest, all did excellent jobs at assisting the queen and dancing and singing on queue. In addition, Sir Studley, played by Edwin Reyes, contributed to the overall tone of the production.
“The music is funny and catchy. The comedic timing of this cast has me laughing every night even after seeing the show so many times,” said student director Robbie Kristel.
The production of “Once Upon a Mattress” was filled with humor that anyone could enjoy. From sexual jokes, to the jokes on gender roles or even slapstick comedy, seeing this musical is a sure-fire way to enjoy your night.
The musical will also be held on April 27-28.