MORRISTOWN, NJ - After a riotously successful fall production of A Christmas Carol, Morristown High School Theatre hopes to once again attract patrons of all ages with their upcoming performance of Once Upon A Mattress. Described by second-time Creative Director Michael Maguire as “the only classic musical remembered for being funny,”Mattress has a venerable pedigree; produced twice on Broadway and three times for television, it was the star-making role for comedy legend Carol Burnett.
The “real version” of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Princess and the Pea, Mattress features a extensive and dynamic cast of characters well-suited to the high school’s performing ensemble. Although some of the jokes may go over the youngest audience members’ heads,Mattress is a true family show that may be enjoyed at any age.
The new production hopes to put a new spin on what is, according to Maguire, “the show that everyone has either seen or been in,” with a topsy-turvy castle designed by MHS parentMichael Hession, which includes two twenty-foot towers, more stairs than you can count, and an onstage moat in the orchestra pit (the twenty-piece student orchestra, conducted by Musical Director David Gallagher, is housed inside the castle itself). Other highlights include artfully comic choreography by Jamie Bass, assisted by students Melanie Della Perutti and Sophie Mazurowski, and an opening stage combat sequence performed by assistant stage managers Katherine Crofford and Jayson Butts.
Filling Burnett’s shoes in the lead role of the unprincesslike Princess Winnifred, sophomoreKate Croonquist stomps, belts, and jokes her way across the stage as she courts the hapless Prince Dauntless, played by senior Nikolas Slackman. His devious and doting mother, Queen Aggravain (played by fellow senior Kirsten Traudt), attempts to keep the two apart with the help of a wizard with a showbiz past, brought to life by junior Steven Blenner.
However, these are not the only characters to watch out for: sophomore Hugh Grennanplays “chivalric knight of the herald” Sir Harry, and junior Alexandra Monfalcone is Lady Larkin, his damsel in distress. Rounding out the principal cast are senior Jeremy Palmeras the Minstrel (if you catch the Sunday performance, you’ll see senior Emma Mustion in the role), sophomore Victoria Fanning as the Jester, and senior Liam Mejia as the mute King Sextimus. Various kinghts and ladies of the kingdom also make brief but hilarious cameos; one particular standout is senior Alexandra Fielding as the coquettish (and fleet-footed) Lady Mabelle.
The passion of the students and the adults in this production is palpable; in fact, much of the crew gave up their spring break to put the final touches on the set. After all, for the adults involved, this is a labor of love: both Gallagher and Maguire are alumni of the MHS Theatre Program (Maguire actually appeared in Mattress as Sir Harry in the school’s 2005 production), and Stage Director Katie Adams and Production Manager Ralph Losannowere both in show as students at Bernards High School. However, amid the technical spectacle, the directing team, which also includes MHS history teacher Scott Hansen, has never lost sight of the heart of the show: its funny and endearing ensemble. “In every show, everybody falls in love with one character,” Adams explains, “but in this one, they won’t even be able to choose.”
Performances of Once Upon A Mattress will be held at Morristown High School on April 1-2 at 7:30 PM and April 3 at 2 PM. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit mhstix.com.