BWW Review: ONCE UPON A MATTRESS IN CONCERT at Young Artists Of America At Strathmore
Young Artists of America put together an impressive concert performance of Mary Roger's and Marshall Barer's Once Upon a Mattress Conducted by Kristofer Sanz, Vocal Directed by Rolando Sanz and Narrated and directed for the stage by Leayne Dempsey. Once Upon a Mattress is a musical comedy that tells the tail of a kingdom ruled by a relentless queen who will not let those in her kingdom wed until her son, Prince Dauntless, finds a princess to wed. In order to marry Dauntless, princesses must go through a series of impossible challenges that they will inevitably fail. These challenges are masterminded and put together by the Queen. The exuberant Princess Winnifred arrives and challenges the the Queen and future of the kingdom.
This performance opened with an exclusive introduction from the legendary Carol Burnett herself who filmed a short video in honor of the 60th anniversary of her show. There was also a history lesson of sorts before the main event started showing clips of Carol Burnett and pictures of Mary Roger detailing their involvement with original production of the show as well as how they became important figures surmounting barriers for women on Broadway and in the performing arts. It did seem that the brief history lesson on the show however, glossed over the lyricist Marshall Barer and his involvement in the creation of the original show as well.
The concert and the selection of songs had an excellent pacing to them that kept the energy throughout the performance. The group of high schoolers and middle schoolers do a better job with this show than I'm sure a group trained adults could have. The performance incorporated a balance of the students' voices and the orchestral accompaniment that nicely filled up the Dekelboum Concert Hall while the hall itself also complimented the performance.
While I thoroughly enjoyed the performance and talent of the students on stage unfortunately that was not the last thing that we, the audience heard, rather we were lectured for what felt like 10 minutes from the artistic director and the executive director. For a group that boasts of its student involvement I also did not understand or see a reason as to why during the performance, students were not the ones narrating and setting the scene and explanation for each scene.
The choice to have the orchestra wear all black paired with the chorus members wear multicolored shirts looked very nice onstage and helped the students visually fill the concert hall. Highlights of the show included: Shy, sung by Ella Gatlin; Song of love, sung by Theodore Yu; and Happily Ever After, sung by Heather Kirschner. These numbers were great examples of the young talent exhibited in this company.
The Young Artists of America have another upcoming performance of this classic this Saturday, November 2 at the Millenium Stage at the Kennedy Center at 6:00. The show runs roughly 80 minutes. Tickets for this event are free. They also have an upcoming production of Disney's Beauty and the Beast at the Strathmore with participation from Alan Menken. This production is March 28 at 3:00pm. Tickets can be purchased at http://www.youngartistsamerica.org/performan