BWW Review: ONCE UPON A MATTRESS at Hudson Village Theatre
At a time when Disney seems to have a monopoly on fairytale musicals, both onstage and on screen, can Rogers and Barer's 1959 musical Once Upon a Mattress hold up to the likes of Frozen, Tangled, and Beauty and the Beast? After seeing Hudson Music Club's "Mattress" I can say that, yes, this cheeky interpretation of Hans Christian Andersen's The Princess and the Pea offers audiences plenty of belly laughs, some catchy tunes, and a strong-willed princess to root for.
The classic tale about the princess who proved her royal lineage by being unable to sleep due to a tiny green pea being placed under twenty mattresses is told succinctly in the opening number (Many Moons Ago), through a delightful pantomime. We soon learn that there's more to the story; the shrewish Queen Aggravain (Gail Marchand) has decreed that no one in the kingdom may marry until her unassuming son, Prince Dauntless the Drab (Andrew McLennan), finds a bride. Aggravain's role as the delicious villain becomes clear as we see how the cards have been stacked against each tiara-wearing contestant in this seemingly unwinnable medieval game show. This ban on weddings becomes especially problematic to lovers, Sir Harry (Jordan Marchand) and Lady Larkin (Isabella Gavanski) thus the catalyst that sends the knight to find the brassy Princess Winnifred the Woebegone (Ashley Dunn). One more element that gives the queen undisputed power as the despot is the fact that her husband, King Sextimus the Silent (John Wilson) is under a curse that renders him mute until "the mouse devours the hawk". As the audience explores the main plot, we are also introduced to some fun supporting characters that help the story along, such as Minstrel (Candace Holder), Jester (Lisa McCormack), and Wizard (Jennifer Martin).
Hudson Music Club offers a charming and vibrant pocket-sized production of Mattress on the Village Theatre stage, with storybook sets by the Jean-Claude Olivier and playful costumes by Gail Marchand. The use of canned music was suitable, although sometimes proved to be an added challenge for the onstage talent, who might have used a bit more coaching from Musical Director, Jennifer Baltuonis. Director and Choreographer, Nadia Verrucci, was in many ways the "star" of this show, creating innumerable unexpected comedic nuances and bringing purpose and style to each song, especially those that did not drive the story forward. Very admirably, each cast member had a moment to shine before the appreciative audience. Notable highlights included Ashley Dunn's boisterous rendition of "Shy", Andrew McLennan and company's hysterical "Song of Love", the vaudevillesque "The Minstrel, the Jester, and I" (Holder, McCormack, and Wilson), and feel-good romantic duet "Yesterday I Loved You" (Jordan Marchand and Isabella Gavanski). Special nods go out to John Wilson's Harpo Marx style "Man to Man Talk" which had audiences roaring with laughter and thankfully did not prompt any woman to woman talk with this reviewer's six-year-old on the drive home. With several performances left in the show's run, I encourage patrons to put Netflix on pause and drive out to Hudson for some entertaining and lively community theatre.
Highly suitable for audiences of all ages, Hudson Music Club's Once Upon a Mattress continues at the Hudson Village Theatre, (28 Wharf Road, Hudson, QC) with evening performances February 22-24 at 8 p.m. and matinées February 18 and 24-25 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $23 to $28 and are available at the box office, 450-458-5361 or online at www.villagetheatre.ca.