BWW Review: ONCE UPON A MATTRESS Delivers a Comical Fairy Tale at Theatre Tuscaloosa

BWW Review:  ONCE UPON A MATTRESS Delivers a Comical Fairy Tale at Theatre Tuscaloosa

When the lights dim at Theatre Tuscaloosa, the flighty fanfare of the orchestra gives a proper prologue into the storybook world of "Once Upon a Mattress." Enter a flute playing Minstrel (Bradley Logan) to open the show with a brief retelling of the 1835 fairytale "The Princess and the Pea" by Hans Christian Anderson. In a kingdom long ago, a princess is sought after to marry a noble but picky prince. A young woman arrives a rainy night with claims to be a princess. Though she is drenched and haggard in appearance he still finds her to be worthy. The Queen offers a test to measure for her royal fortitude. She is to sleep for an evening atop a tower of 40 memory foam mattresses. (ok I added that part) Unbeknownst to her, a single pea has been placed in between two mattresses. If she is able to rest well for the night, she is disqualified. A true royal would not be able to rest on even the slightest of imperfections. Alas she has a restless sleep and "they lived happily ever after."

BWW Review:  ONCE UPON A MATTRESS Delivers a Comical Fairy Tale at Theatre Tuscaloosa

The Minstrel changes the tune. He's going to tell the audience the real story, and the show takes off. The abrasive Queen Aggravain's (Kathy Wilson) dutiful right hand woman is Lady Larken (Grace Connor). She and brave knight with swagger Sir Harry (Alex Freeman) are in love, and in a mad rush to marry. The Queen however has forbidden anyone to be wed before her goofy son/Prince Dauntless (John Walker). Sir Harry is charged with scouring the lands to find a suitable princess, and returns on a rainy evening with Princess Winnifred (Autumn Fuller). She's far from a polished royal the Queen was expecting. She is from a kingdom in the swamp and is more prone to pet frogs than nightingales. Her wet and ragged appearance is not a sign of her character. She is brave, kind and cordial. Her character traits shine brighter than any of polished candidates before her. The Queen moves to sabotage Winnifred's chance by concocting up a bogus "sensitivity" test of Winnifred's constitution to sleep upon a bed of 20 mattresses with a pea hidden in the layers.

BWW Review:  ONCE UPON A MATTRESS Delivers a Comical Fairy Tale at Theatre Tuscaloosa

Autumn Fuller as Winnifred lights up the show with abundant skills as a triple threat. She sings, dances and delivers a ton of energy into the role of the charismatic swamp princess. Her fearlessness to be funny registers in her performance. This approach to doing comedy is shared noticeably with several in the cast. John Walker provides the childish Prince Dauntless with a relatable tone. The silly mute King Sextimus (Brent Jones). Hilarious Jester (Colton Crowe), hapless Wizard (Royce G. Garrison), and Minstrel (Bradley Logan) have a wonderful chemistry together that register like the quartet in the "Wizard of Oz." Kathy Wilson as the sneaky and authoritative Queen Aggravain brings a "love to hate" vibe to the role. She's brash, quick tempered and selfish. With all that being said, you cant wait for her to return to a scene. One passage in particular, Wilson impressively runs thought a meaty section of dialogue with a power of the Energizer Bunny.

BWW Review:  ONCE UPON A MATTRESS Delivers a Comical Fairy Tale at Theatre Tuscaloosa

One critique is to the writers of the play in developing King Sextimus. His lack of voice is due to a curse placed upon him. His lack of tact and boundaries are due to dated male chauvinistic comedy writing . The "harmless" old man running around groping the backsides of the young chambermaids was funny during a time when that behavior was acceptable. It is not rampant in every scene but when it does happen. I have to admit I found it an uncomfortable element in the script that really could be omitted. The "comedic" groping lends no real momentum to the story. The role of a grabby man is no longer funny. It's inappropriate and deserves to be put in its place, the history books.

BWW Review:  ONCE UPON A MATTRESS Delivers a Comical Fairy Tale at Theatre Tuscaloosa

The second act does has some drag in the plot. It's a noticeable change from the lively first act. Music director Alex Benford leads a tight orchestra with song and dance numbers that are fun and peppy throughout the performance. Janette Waterman's costumes are spot on perfection. The actors are dressed as if they came right off the page of a storybook. Steve Ray's set design gives a set with much medieval character and quick transitions. Overall the production is a fun comedy representation of the real story behind this classic fairytale. A drive to Theatre Tuscaloosa is well worth this journey into this storyland.

Theatre Tuscaloosa

Once Upon A Mattress

Book by Jay Thompson, Marshall Barer and Dean Fuller

Music by Mary Rodgers, Lyrics by Marshall Barer

Directed by Steve Ray

Musical director - Alex Benford

Choreographer - Lindsey Jones

Queen Aggravain - Kathy Wilson

King Sextimus - Brent Jones

Prince Dauntless - John Walker

Princess Winnifred - Autum Fuller

Wizard - Royce G. Garrison

Jester - Colton Crowe

Lady Larken - Grace Connor

Sir Harry - Alex Freeman

July 13 - 22

Theatre Tuscaloosa
(on the campus of Shelton State Community College)

9500 Old Greensboro Road
Tuscaloosa, AL 35405

Tickets and more info at (205) 391-2227 and www.theatretusc.com

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From This Author David Edward Perry

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