“Once Upon a Mattress” Provides Comical Windup to Flint Community Players Season

Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby

Flint Community Players wraps up their season this weekend and next with a comical and totally entertaining show about a royal family and their ongoing dilemmas.

Once Upon a Mattress is a campy little 1960s musical that makes grand fun of the familiar fairy tale about the princess forced to prove herself royally delicate enough to marry a prince when a small pea placed under a mattress disturbed her slumber. Be forewarned, however – this is no ordinary princess. For that matter, this is no ordinary royal court either.

As the Minstrel (Rafeal D. McDaniel) sings, the story is set “Many Moons Ago” in a land where Queen Aggravain (Rose Adams) rules the royal roost. Adams brings hilarity to this overbearing monarch as she connives and cheats to keep her only son, Dauntless (Alexander Rossiter) from marrying anyone.

Rossiter is taken with every candidate and really wants to marry someone, but every time a princess seems perfect, she fails the Queen’s skewed test. His boyish charm is perfect for this role and becomes even more endearing later.

As for the King, Patrick Munley is a hoot in this role. Sextimus The Silent has been under a curse for years and cannot speak. His pantomime and charades are terrific but still not enough to overpower Aggravain. They are, however, perfect as he explains the birds and bees to Dauntless in the comical “Man to Man Talk”.

Dauntless is not alone in pining for a princess as the law of the land states no one will marry until the prince does. It’s beginning to look bleak for Lady Larken (Kristen Seeley) and Sir Harry (Alexander Willett). These two share a couple lovely ballads beginning with “In A Little While”. Seeley is the stronger vocalist of the two and carries both this song and “Yesterday I Loved You”.

Everything is turned topsy-turvy in the court when Princess Winnifred swims the moat and crawls over the wall! Farrell Tatum is wonderful as this swamp-bred gal with unending talents, strengths and sensitivity! Her signature song “I’ve Always Been Shy” set the show on a whole new track Friday, and her energy was infectious.

Horrified, Aggravain conjures up the mattress and the pea test, but decides on 20 mattresses to ensure “Fred” fails the test. We already know how THAT turns out!

We must mention two others who narrate and appear everywhere in this show. Gil Hall is the Jester, a comical sidekick of the King and the Minstrel and sometime errand boy for the Queen. His “Very Soft Shoes” was a sweet vaudeville-style number.

As the Wizard, Jonathan Smith serves at the Queen’s discretion. But he had Friday night’s audience in stitches when dressed up as the Nightingale of Samarkand on a perch, he attempted to sing Winnifred to sleep with the hysterical “Lullaby”.

Frank E. Pitts returns as director doing double duty in handling both the stage and musical aspects. Once again he employs recorded music rather than a live group. It works well most of the time (there were occasional minor missteps), but the full orchestra sound is very nice.

Although the music isn’t widely familiar, this Mary Rodgers-Marshall Barer score is memorable and delightful. We were sorry to see the list of musical numbers not listed in the program, but it could have been an oversight.

Overall, this show is a laugh-filled and toe-tapping evening’s entertainment. Once Upon a Mattress continues at The Tom & Bea Nobles Performance Hall, 2462 S. Ballenger Hwy. Flint 48507, tonight and May 15 & 16 at 8:00 pm. Matinees are May 10 & 17 at 2:30 pm. Call the box office – 810-441-9302 or check online at www.flintcommunityplayers.com

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