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BWW Reviews: Cabrillo's ONCE UPON A MATTRESS Great Family Fare

Once Upon a Mattress/book by Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller & Marshall Barer/music by Mary Rodgers; lyrics by Marshall Barer/directed by Richard Israel

Cabrillo Music Theatre
through April 29 only- one more weekend!
Mary Rodgers' lovely score and director George Abbott's ingenious casting of Carol Burnett in the title role of Princess Winnifred made the flimsy, satirical fairy-tale Once Upon a Mattress the great hit that it was in the 50s. It's basically silly stuff, but despite its off-center humor, sight gags, physical comedy and overall visual appeal, the show unfortunately does plod along, so it's those priceless songs and delightful, scattered comic moments that perk it up over the course of two and a half hours. With Richard Israel's fluid staging and a fine cast headed by the uniquely funny Bets Malone as "Fred" and glorious Tracy Lore as pesky Queen Aggravain, Cabrillo's production is for the most part a slick, ultra-colorful and pleasingly quirky entertainment.
Someone who had seen the original show mentioned that he thought that all the Ladies in Waiting were shown as pregnant - not only Larken ( Noelle Marion)- and this visual joke added urgency to the whole concept of Dauntless (Scott Reardon) finding a Princess to wed as soon as possible. If he married, then the others could as well; if not, Ladies would be banished from the kingdom ... and what of the Lords? Certainly, King Sextimus (David Newcomer) chasing every skirt in sight is more than enough of a sign of promiscuity, so why not show it running rampant throughout the court? Something extra spicy is needed to spike this script, even though Cabrillo is a leader of familyfare. This is an adult fairy tale, and kids have been exposed to far more sex and controversy on film as well as stage.
The ensemble measures up royally. Malone pulls out all the stops as Winnifred, allowing her natural comic flair to take control. Her sleepless physical antics on top of the 20 mattresses is hilarious. Lore is equally stunning as Aggravain, as she consistently grates on the nerves whilst maintaining an obsessive egomaniacal hold over Dauntless and the Wizard (David Gilchrist). Danny Gurwin makes a debonnaire and even-keeled Minstrel making the best use of his rich lilting voice. Marion is simply lovely as Larken and Isaac James makes a strong Sir Harry. Reardon is just perfect as Dauntless the Drab, the definitive Mama's boy, and Newcomer is delightful keeping his mouth shut and eyes wide open as Sextimus. Timothy Stokel holds back somewhat as the Jester, making his "Very Soft Shoes" workable but hardly dynamic. Praise as well to the entire cast of Lords and Ladies who move well to Cheryl Baxter's excellent choreography and within director Israel's well balanced staging.
Mary Rodgers' tuneful "In a Little While", "Normandy", "Yesterday I Loved You" and "Happily Ever After" are beautifully executed as are the strongly humorous and giddy "Spanish Panic", "Song of Love" and "Sensitivity". "The Swamps of Home", as anthem to Princess Winnifred is perhaps a tad too underplayed. Thanks to the colorful costumes, and vibrant sets and lighting design by Jean-Yves Tessier, the stage is consistently and resplendently regal.
In spite of the show's weaknesses, Cabrillo's wonderfully executed production makes Once Upon a Mattress entertaining family fare.

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From This Author Don Grigware