By George Basler
The new producers at the Cider Mill Stage started this season at the Endicott playhouse with a clear plan. They tried to find shows that were fun and gave audiences “something to laugh at,” said Artistic Director Rob Egan.
So, it’s fitting that their season is concluding with the frothy musical Once Upon a Mattress that made Carol Burnett a star when it was first produced on Broadway back in 1959. The show, being billed as “raucous, romantic and melodic,” will run for two weekends beginning this Friday (June 10).
“It has the feel of a classic Broadway show” with a good musical score and physical comedy that will appeal to audiences of all ages,” said Egan who is directing the 19-person cast.
Once Upon a Mattress is a humorous adaptation of the 1835 Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Princess and the Pea. It features music by Mary Rodgers (daughter of Richard), lyrics by Marshall Barer and a book by Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller, and Barer.
Set in a mythical 15th century kingdom, it concerns the search for a suitable princess for the hapless Prince Dauntless (played by Isaac Weber). The matter is of pressing concern because Dauntless’ mother, Queen Aggravain, has decreed that no couple can marry until her son finds a bride. Things aren’t going well until the spunky Winnifred the Woebegone shows up to try to win the prince’s hand.
The show is “kind of an anti-fairy tale” because it turns the usual story of a prince rescuing a princess on its head, Egan said. Instead, it’s the other way around.
Once Upon a Mattress has become a popular show for high schools and community theaters, because it provides many good roles for actors, Egan said. Also, “it’s sort of a twist on the classic fairy tale story, and that helps it stay relevant.”
Marjorie Loughran, who is playing Winnifred in the Cider Mill Stage production, has appeared in a long list of community shows over the years, including Spamalot, Matilda, Last of the Red Hot Lovers and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
Loughran is familiar with the role of Winnifred because Once Upon a Mattress was the first show she was involved with in high school. The musical plays to her strong suit as a comic actress, she said. She called it a solidly written show with slapstick, “rubber chicken” humor that she enjoys.
She also likes that Winnifred is “independent and goes against the grain,” which makes her a fun part to play. “She’s not demur. She’s comfortable with who she is and not conforming to social expectations,” Loughran said.
The role is a physically challenging one, Loughran added, especially for one number, “Song of Love,” that requires her to run across the stage and lift weights. “It’s an obstacle course of a musical number,” she said.
Egans said the production team has worked to make the show fit the space of the Cider Mill’s stage. The goal is to strike the right balance so audience members can find the fun and humor in the story without the action veering into “stupid nonsense,” he said.
Mary Donnelly is doing the set design and technical work, Sonny DeWitt is the musical director and Katie Barlow is the choreographer. There will be an eight-piece live orchestra.
“This is a good finale to our inaugural season,” Egan said.
IF YOU GO: The Cider Mill Stage, 2 Nanticoke Ave., Endicott, will present Once Upon a Mattress June 10-12 and June 17-19. Performance times are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $25. To order tickets, go to www.cidermillstage.com, click on “upcoming shows” and then click on “buy your tickets here.”
Mask wearing is optional in the theater.