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BWW Blog: Annalise Prentiss - ONCE UPON A MATTRESS JR. at Susquehanna Stage Company

Emma Creason, Anthony Calhoun, and Niamh Cushey

Most everyone knows the story of "The Princess and the Pea", but few know what actually happened. For instance, did you know that Princess Winnifred, from the Ragnarok Marsh Lilies, actually swam the moat to reach the castle? You'll learn about this and much more from Susquehanna Stage Company's next show, Once Upon a Mattress Jr.!

Once Upon a Mattress Jr. is a humorous spin on the classic fairytale of "The Princess and the Pea" by the famous story tale author, Hans Christian Andersen. The show takes place in a medieval setting with The Royal Family, lords and ladies, and of course, the knights. Most all the characters are present in the beginning of the show when they announce that there's an opening for a Princess. You see, a Princess for the Prince Dauntless the Drab (Miguel Prysakar) must be found in order to allow everyone else in the kingdom to get married. This piece of history stands in the way of Sir Harry (Ethan Reimel) and his love, Lady Larken (Annalise Prentiss) who want to marry eventually. Therefore, Sir Harry sets out to find a genuine, certified Princess who will win the approval of the overbearing Queen (Emma Creason) and her right hand man, the Wizard (Niamh Cushey). When Sir Harry returns with the Princess, everyone realizes that she may not be the 'proper' Princess. Princess Winnifred (Maya Burdick), unlike the others, swam the moat and climbed the wall to enter the castle! Of course, the Queen disapproves of her behavior and refuses to accommodate this girl. However, Dauntless convinces her to give Winnifred one of her tests to prove if she is the proper Princess. So, the Queen does, but you'll have to come see the show to find out if Princess Winnifred passes! This entire story of acceptance, love, and courage is narrated by the iconic duo of the Jester (Maddie Whitcraft) and the Minstrel (Ryan Kimbark) along with their mute friend, the King (Anthony Calhoun). Together, this musical produces an exciting story with a mix of talented young actors and fun music!

After rehearsal one day, I had the great opportunity to talk with my cast mates and production team about how their overall experience was throughout this rehearsal process. Maya Burdick, who attends Ephrata Middle School, plays the lovable, light-hearted, fun character, Winnifred the Woebegone. Burdick explains that throughout this show, she has grown as a performer and learned countless new ways on how to produce a novel character. "This show really helped me grow, and this character really challenged me with singing and acting. But when I put enough work into it, I felt like I overcame them and felt like a real life Winnifred," Burdick says. She also adds that Winnifred was a challenging character for her because Winnifred takes her out of her comfort zone because of how crazy her personality is. However, as challenging as it may be, Burdick certainly tackles the character extremely well and manages to produce an outgoing, lovable character that will make you laugh for sure!

However, where would Winnifred be without her trusty companion and love, Prince Dauntless the Drab. Miguel Prysakar, an upcoming sophomore at Cocalico High School, plays the quirky and obedient Prince who fights for the approval of Winnifred from his mother. "At the beginning of the show Dauntless is very childlike and bends to the will of his mother. Once, Winnifred shows up, he becomes more brave," Prysakar explains. He states that it was a struggle at first to adjust to the stage, but we all managed to produce a well executed show after all! This was Prysakar's first show at Susquehanna Stage Company and he says that he was overjoyed by how nice everyone was and that we aren't afraid to try something new! Come see Once Upon a Mattress Jr. to see just exactly what he means!

Another person making their debut at Susquehanna Stage Company, but certainly not to the stage, is Ethan Reimel. Reimel portrays the self-absorbed yet passionate, Sir Harry who falls in love with Lady Larken. His portrayal of the character will make you both laugh and smile. Reimel says that he enjoyed working with this cast of kids. He knew some of the actors from working with them before, but meeting new people is always fun! "No matter where you go and no matter who you're working with, you should always have a sense of community," Reimel states, "Sometimes in theater, you do the show and then you're done, but instead you should take something with you. That's that sense of community." Sir Harry would love to see you in the audience because of all the hard work everyone's put into this show!

Emma Creason, a 6th grader at Bear Creek Intermediate School, is the villain of the story. She claims that becoming the "bad guy" was challenging, but you can't tell because of how awesome her performance is. Creason is no stranger to the SSC stage, and has the great opportunity to play the evil and cunning character, the Queen. She sure is an aspiring actress!

Creason's right-hand man is the Wizard, which Niamh Cushey has the opportunity of playing. These two share a natural bond on stage and are able to showcase their talents greatly in their number, "Sensitivity." Cushey has performed with SSC countless times before, and her performance is always exceptional! This show is definitely not one to miss!

Most people I talked to announced that their favorite experience about this show was meeting new people and creating lasting friendships. Anthony Calhoun, from Columbia School District, plays the King and like others, this is his first show at Susquehanna Stage Company. Calhoun states, "It's been a great experience so far. The show allowed me to meet a lot of new people who are now my friends. This is my first show at SSC and it's been great!" He also says that he will definitely be auditioning here again, which is wonderful!

But of course, where would the mute king be without his trusty sidekicks, the Jester and the Minstrel? Maddie Whitcraft takes on the role of The Jester and makes it an effortless performance! Both characters need a quirky, comedic performance style and Whitcraft does just that! Ryan Kimbark, who attends Lancaster Mennonite KrayBill Campus, plays The Minstrel. This fun, enjoyable character has many moments in the show to shine. Kimbark's exceptional performance will have audience members laughing for sure, especially in the trio of "The Minstrel, The Jester, and I." Ryan says he would love for you to come see the show because, "It's a fun way to spend the night!!!!"

While the actors and actresses on stage are important, where would we be without the hard working crew? Nancy Elledge directed this show, and directing isn't always the easiest job, but she succeeded and helped to create a wonderful show! This surely wasn't Nancy's first time working with children. She says, "I enjoy the energy and enthusiasm of young people. I have worked with young people before and have raised kids, so I would say doing this sort of thing is more of a 'natural' experience." Well, we all enjoyed working with Mrs. Elledge as well! Nancy encourages everyone to come see this show because we've all worked so hard and the story is a fun and entertaining one!

Of course a musical wouldn't be a musical without songs. Once Upon a Mattress Jr. was musically directed by the wonderful Sharon Boyer. Like Nancy, Mrs. Boyer has worked with children before, so it was no challenge to teach all these kids. The music in this show is exciting, joyous, and, yet again, comedic. Mrs. Boyer helped each one of us to improve our strengths and create amazing vocals for this show.

Now, how do musicals enhance music? The answer? Choreography! Lauren Elledge choreographed Once Upon a Mattress Jr. Lauren is still a junior in highschool and has performed in countless of shows herself, so she knew what it meant to be on the 'other side'. Her talent really shines through with the ensemble dance number, "The Spanish Panic" and with Harry and Larken's duet, "Yesterday I Loved You." The choreography is enhanced a thousand times by the vibrant, medieval costumes by Jacquee Johnson. During "The Spanish Panic" Lauren's energetic choreography and Johnson's colorful, brilliant costumes compliment each other to create a one-of-a-kind ensemble experience.

Behind the scenes is Kayla Azaroff, our hard working stage manager. There always has to be someone to maintain order, and Kayla's our girl! Kayla has performed on stage at SSC before, but decided to give backstage a try. Stage managing is no easy job, but Kayla makes it seem that way! "This show truly captures a wonderful fairy tale," Kayla says, "They are incredibly talented and really bring the story to life! If you want a fun energetic show that a younger child can sit through, this would be the one for you!"

Overall, Once Upon a Mattress Jr. is a VERY energetic show! Through music, blocking, choreography, and a talented cast, the story of the truth behind "The Princess and the Pea" really shines through. This contemporary twist on a classic story is retold by an AWESOME cast of kids which will make your day brighter. My last question to the cast and crew was: if you could describe the show in one word, what would it be? Almost everyone replied with 'fun' and 'entertaining'. I encourage everyone reading this to come see and support local theatre kids in this fun, entertaining, delightful, and hilarious production of Once Upon a Mattress Jr. at Susquehanna Stage Company! You won't regret it!

Once Upon a Mattress Jr. opens Friday, April 28 and runs until Sunday, May 7. For more information visit SSC's website at Hope to see you there!

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From This Author Guest Blogger: Annalise Prentiss

Annalise Prentiss has been singing and dancing since she was three years old and has been performing on stage since she was seven. She has (read more...)

  • BWW Blog: Annalise Prentiss - ONCE UPON A MATTRESS JR. at Susquehanna Stage Company
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