‘Once Upon a Mattress’ at Prince George’s Little Theatre

Prince George’s Little Theatre’s production of Once Upon a Mattress is a playful, musical comedy for all generations. With music by Mary Rodgers, lyrics by Marshall Barer, and book by Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller, and Marshall Barer, PGLT’s show is directed by Frank Pasqualino and produced by Jenna Jones Paradis. The premise is simple, the King Sextimus and Queen Aggravain’s son (Dauntless) has come of age to marry. Now he must find a tried and true princess before anyone in the kingdom can wed.

The Queen (Linda Swann) and the King (John Shackelford) don’t approve of the princess that has caught the eye of their son Prince Dauntless (Mike Culhane). Photo by Andrew Culhane

The Queen (Linda Swann) and the King (John Shackelford) don’t approve of the princess that has caught the eye of their son Prince Dauntless (Mike Culhane). Photo by Andrew Culhane.

The show opens with the Minstrel (Ken Kemp) singing “Many Moons Ago” that is a song describing the delicateness of a princess and a true princess is rare. Kemp’s vocal tone is sweet and inviting as he makes his way from audience seating to the stage. The stage curtain rises and the ensemble cast, aka the King’s court, is present while the Queen interviews a potential princess.

The castle set by designers Frank Pasqualino and Roy Peterson is animated-like in bright colors (greens, purples, and blues) that keenly match the cast’s costumes, designed by Linda Swann. Playing double duty as Queen Aggravain, Swann is a force to be reckoned with, for she is both bawdy and unbelievably hilarious. Her character dotes over her son, Dauntless, just a little too much and is quite mischievous when it comes to testing the princesses. Her Queen’s gown is fancy in maroon and gold comprised of layers and accented with pearls and gems.

Prince Dauntless (Mike Culhane), though he is of age to take a wife, is still quite the ‘mama’s boy’ because he whines when his Queen mother will not bow to his whims. His lanky stature works when paired with Winnifred (Meg Nemeth) because they are supposed to be opposites. Culhane is sweet but naïve whereas Nemeth is assertive and knowledgeable (for the most part). They are not burning with chemistry but show a sense of fondness for one another. In their numbers, “Swamps of Home” and “Song of Love,” their voices accompany each other well.

Prince Dauntless (Mike Culhane) holds the tiny pea that was buried under all the mattresses of Princess Winnifred’s (Meg Nemeth) bed. Photo by Andrew Culhane.

Prince Dauntless (Mike Culhane) holds the tiny pea that was buried under all the mattresses of Princess Winnifred’s (Meg Nemeth) bed. Photo by Andrew Culhane.

Nemeth is a powerhouse as she leads the court in the song, “Shy.” What a fun and entertaining number! It would have been nice to have seen more of Culhane and Nemeth together – especially with her beautiful soprano and then powerful and splendid cabaret-like voice as Nemeth demonstrated in “Happily Ever After.”

Lady Larken (Erin Paluchowski) is in love with Sir Harry (John Culhane). Photo by Andrew Culhane

Lady Larken (Erin Paluchowski) is in love with Sir Harry (John Culhane). Photo by Andrew Culhane.

Larken (Erin Paluchowski) and Harry (John Culhane) are the other lead couple that dominate in their roles. Larken is madly into love with Harry which is why they have a good chemistry as the love and fight with equal intensity. Paluchowski voice is stellar. Her pink and white chiffon dress was beautiful along with her blue and gold headdress that flattered her blonde locks.

King Sextimus (John Shackelford) is one naughty man who does not hide his affections for the ladies. He’ll pretty much chase anything in a skirt. The uniqueness of this character is that he is mute – from a spell – and what a challenge to have to literally act out one’s lines. His King’s costume was rich in greens and gold. Shackelford has perfect comedic timing as he mocks the queen behind her back yet cleverly mimes his words to his confidants, the Minstrel and the Wizard.

Boldly dressed in a long silk coat of pink and turquoise and donning a silver turban head dress, Ken Kienas’ Wizard is a playful character and is the egotistical, ex-performer who directly serves the Queen. He is the mastermind behind all the princess tests and is proud to be in his position. He’ll do anything for Queen Aggravain.

The Jester (Shane Conrad) is the King’s peppy right-hand man however, Conrad plays the Jester on the gentle side and is charming in his solo number, “Very Soft Shoes,” the pays homage to the character’s father.

The cast of 'Once Upon a Mattress.' Photo by Andrew Culhane.

The cast of ‘Once Upon a Mattress.’ Photo by Andrew Culhane.

The Esemble is comprised of the King’s court and fulfills the following roles: Kitchen Wench, Emily Chambermaid (Kate Small), Princess #12, Lady Helena (Jessica Inzeo), Nightingale, Lady Endatramp (Kelly Farrall), Lady Lucille (Erin Skelly), Lady Merrill (Attey Harper), Lady Fingers (Hillary Glass), Lady Rowena (Maureen Roult), Lady Madonna (Jenna Jones-Paradis), Sir Mount (Keith Brown), Sir Render (Tom Bethards), Sir Luce (Patrick O’Connell), Sir Loins (Paul Pesnell) and Sir Studly (Otega Okurume). They are all extremely talented and they show off their expertise in the ballroom scene that layers a variety of modern dances – so that it will exhaust Winnifred. This is truly a talented and fun cast that will sing and dance their way into your heart.

Triple-threat Director Frank Pasqualino also provides the lighting design that enhanced the bold colors of the set and costuming.

Prince George’s Little Theatre’s amusing Once Upon A Mattress is a fairytale gone wild (in a good way) that is filled with enthusiasm and delight. Pure family entertainment, its simple and comical theme makes for an amusing out for friends and families. It is laugh-out-loud and tongue-and-cheek, with a few mischievous jests here and there, and it will leave you smiling.

Running Time: 2 hours, with a 15-minute intermission.

IMG_37222Once Upon a Mattress plays through September 26, 2015 at Prince George’s Little Theatre performing at Bowie Playhouse – 16500 White Marsh Park Drive, in Bowie, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 937-7458 and press 1, at the door, or online.

LINKS
Meet the Director and Cast of Prince George’s Little Theatre’s ‘Once Upon a Mattress’: Part 1: Director Frank Pasqualino.

Meet the Director and Cast of Prince George’s Little Theatre’s ‘Once Upon a Mattress’: Part 2: Meg Nemeth and Mike Culhane.

Meet the Director and Cast of Prince George’s Little Theatre’s ‘Once Upon a Mattress’: Part 3: Linda Swann and John Shackleford.

Meet the Director and Cast of Prince George’s Little Theatre’s ‘Once Upon a Mattress’: Part 4: Ken Kemp.

RATING: FOUR-AND-A-HALF-STARS8.gif

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