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CTA's "Mattress" In No Way Shy On Fun

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January 13, 2011

Musical Retelling Of “The Princess And The Pea” Provides An Evening Of Great Local Theatre

By Dylan Roche
Anyone who thinks they know the story of The Princess and the Pea, should think again!
As the audience is told in the opening of Once Upon A Mattress, which is currently being presented by Children’s Theatre of Annapolis, the traditionally held version isn’t the real story. Theatergoers are in for a real treat as the madcap musical unfolds, retelling the classic fairy tale like never before.

The production is directed and choreographed by Jason Kimmel, music-directed by Wes Livingston, and assistant-choreography by Emily L. Sergo.
The wicked Queen Aggravain (Hayley White) holds her kingdom under tyranny with a law that no one in the land get married until her son, Prince Dauntless (Isaac Simonaire), does; but the Queen shields her son from women by insisting that the girl’s royalty be proven by impassable tests - and good-hearted King Sextimus (Sam Kobren) can do nothing to stop her because he has been cursed mute! When Lady Larken (Cassidy Hamilton) finds that she is expecting by Sir Harry (Austin Heemstra), she sends Harry to find the prince a wife. Sir Harry brings Princess Winnifred, “Fred” the Woebegone (Allie Bannigan) of the Swampland, to whom Prince Dauntless instantly takes a liking.
To disprove the princess, the Queen and court Wizard (Jeff Miller) conspire to put a pea beneath 20 mattresses and dismiss her if she does not feel it. Meanwhile the Jester (Fred Fletcher-Jackson) and an in-town minstrel (Justin Binnix), along with the King, plan to figure out the test and help Princess Fred pass.
The production is carried by a cast of talented young actors and is full of stand-out performances. White is a deliciously wicked Queen, taking full advantage of the role as the outrageous character and chewing the scenery at every turn.
Simonaire plays Dauntless with perfect childishness and charm, and especially fun to watch is his chemistry with Brannigan, who is both wild and genuine as Winnifred, possessed of a strong voice and excellent comedic timing.
Kobren creates a great character without even speaking; his facial expressions and gestures comprise the King’s communication very well. Heemstra and Hamilton make Harry and Larken great comic characters by hilariously playing up Harry’s arrogance and Lady Larken’s inclination towards being dramatic.
With his excellent voice, Binnix is perfectly cast as the Minstril, playing well off Fletcher-Jackson, who is both funny and delivers a memorable solo number as the Jester.
Miller is a great character actor as the Wizard, delivering a performance that is consistent and amusing. The principal members of the cast are supported by an equally-talented ensemble of pages, ladies, and knights.
Kimmel’s direction is original and invigorating, putting a fresh stamp on the classic comedy and taking full advantage of both the script and the cast’s talent - and the cast is not only talented, but they seem to have the time of their lives. Kimmel’s directing decisions are just as much fun for the audience to watch as they are for the cast to perform. Those familiar with the musical will definitely find themselves surprised.
If you missed the opening  weekend, be sure to catch Once Upon A Mattress January 14-16. To purchase tickets go to www.childrenstheatreofannapolis.org or call 410-757-ACT1.

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