A Princess of a Show at FAU
By Skip Sheffield
“Once Upon a Mattress” is one of the silliest musicals ever to become a Broadway hit. I have a soft spot for it, because my sister Sheila starred in the lead role of Princess Winnifred at the Theatre Intime of Princeton University in her freshman year at Westminster Choir College. We rode all the way from Columbus, Ohio, where my family had moved, to attend opening night. It was totally worth it.
It was just a short drive to Florida Atlantic University to see their Summer Rep production, which continues through July 31 in the Studio One Theater. Finding that black box theater is a bit of a trick. They even joked about it from the stage.
“Mattress” is set in 1552, but director Bruce Linser has updated the script with many modern references. Costumes are a big part of this show, based on the Princess and the Pea fairy tale.
The show is narrated by a Minstrel (Connor Padilla), a good-natured fellow with a strong singing voice. The songs, by Mary Rodgers (daughter of Richard Rodgers), with lyrics by Marshall Barer, are no great shakes, but then again this is not exactly Rodgers & Hammerstein.
Musical direction is by Paul Reekie, who is onstage playing keyboards. It is a lively five-piece combo, the high point of which is when guitarist Kevin Stewart and trumpeter Rachel Steele venture into the audience for an instrumental “Johnny B. Goode.” It’s that kind of show.
Main characters are Queen Aggravain (Equity pro Maribeth Graham) and her mute but very randy King Sexitmus (another Equity pro, Barry Tarallo).
The Queen seeks to mate her weak-willed son Prince Dauntless (Eytan Deray) to a proper princess, but has had no luck until plucky Princess Winnifred (Emily Freeman) swims the moat to present herself.
Freeman has a strong, powerful voice, selling such weak songs as “The Swamps of Home” and “Spanish Panic.”
Commenting on the proceedings are a Jester (Clifton J. Adams), who takes center stage for a dance routine in green sneakers. A Wizard (Ross Frawley), often loses his wig or beard, and Lady Larkin (Tara Collandra) who is impregnated by the callous Sir Harry (Jordan Armstrong) is simply lovely.
Put on your party hat and enjoy “Once Upon a Mattress.” No heavy thought is required.
Tickets are $20 general admission, $15 FAU faculty, staff and alumni and $12 students. Call 800-564-9539 or 561-297-6121 or go to www.fauevents.com.