Sometimes princesses don’t act like princesses: ‘Once upon a Mattress’ opens at the MAC

STAFF WRITER John Coffelt Millennium Repertory Company’s Teen Actors Guild will present one of the most beloved fairytale adaptations, “Once Upon a Mattress,” – a version of “The Princess and the Pea” – featuring one of the youngest overall casts the company has seen in recent years. But what the cast lacks in years it makes up for in ambition and on-stage experience. “The oldest is 18 and the youngest is 14. This is probably the youngest cast that we’ve had overall in a while. Our TAG shows usually are 16- or 17-year- olds.” said director Karen Wainright. Wainright, a mathematics teacher at Westwood Middle School, said that she and Musical Director Landon Spangler, also Westwood faculty, just came out of a musical at the school and many of this show’s cast are seventh and eighth-grade Westwood students. “This is the first young cast I’ve worked with in quite a while. When we were at the old arts center I did a show with the teens, but I usually work with the adults, so this has been a bit different. But this cast has been really good to work with.” Wainright added that the teens are ahead of schedule at learning lines and choreography. “There are some adult shows that are not as far ahead as these kids are at this point. I’m really pleased. They’re working really hard.” She said that one of the challenges of a summer show is vacations. “We haven’t had any consistency, but even without any consistency, they’re still doing really well.” The production includes extensive singing and dance numbers. All of the leads will be doing both in addition to their general acting. “All of the leads do everything,” said Wainright. They will also be doing set changes along with my stage hands.” The plot of “Once Upon a Mattress” tells the “true” story behind the “Princess and the Pea.” “We all know that there’s a princess who couldn’t sleep because there’s a pea under her mattress,” Wainright explains. “Well, we have this princess (Winnifred the Woebegone) who comes from the marshland. She is the 13th princess to be tested for the hand of the prince.” Winnifred arrives at the castle as the queen is unfairly testing number 12. No one is good enough in the queen’s eyes. Nonetheless, brash and unrefined Winnifred charms Dauntless, Studley, the knights and most of the kingdom, while gaining the utter loathing of the evil queen, who vows to stop her. “This is a show that I’ve always liked,” Wainright said. “We had done it at the old arts center years ago. I enjoyed watching that show. This is what the teenagers voted to do.” Wainright said that she liked the show and loves the music and the comedy. Comedy is difficult to get right, Wainright said. “Especially if they don’t understand the joke, they have a hard time portraying the joke. They are doing a pretty good job. Some struggled to get the gist of the jokes. And some of the comedy is physical humor so they have to do the physical part in order for the joke to come through.” Wainright said, “Some are just naturally silly kids and jokesters in their normal life so it comes naturally.” Teen actor Sarah Thomas, who plays Princess Winnifred, describes her character in a word as “interesting.” “She’s has a lot of personality to her. She’s wild, independent. She walks to the beat of her own drum,” Thomas said. “She wants to have a fairytale of her own without losing her own personality.” Thomas said her personality fits her character. “I’m a free spirit. I’m a lot like Winnifred – outgoing, wild. I really show her personality to the fullest,” Thomas said. “I agreed to only do it if Landon Spangler was my music director.” The role of Princess Winnifred was famously portrayed by Carol Burnett from the Broadway production, and later Sarah Jessica Parker revised the role in the 1996 Broadway production. Leading the cast are Sarah Thomas as Princess Winnifred, Zachary Smith as Prince Dauntless, Karisha Glover as Queen Aggravain, Jackson Everett as King Sextimus, Andie Clutter as Minstrel and Colleen Wainright as Jester. Other cast members are Matthew Robertson as Sir Harry, M.E. Willow as Lady Larken, Mathias Montoya as Wizard, Kushi Zave as Princess #12, Lauren Perry as Lady Rowena, Genevieve Garner as Lady Merrill, Bre Chansky as Lady Lucille, Matthew Miller as Sir Studley, Blair Cellenti as Sir Luce, Rayanna Lemons as Lady Mabelle, Madison Hershman as Lady Helena and Mary Margaret Edwards as Nightingale. The ensemble includes Anna Campbell, Mary Margaret Edwards, Eli Glasgow, Noah Helwig, Olivia Kilpatrick, Kelley Lovell,  Liberty McAfee, Nicole Whitt and Elissa Woodard. The stage manager is Micah Hansen. and stage hands are Hailey Hansen and Jared Fibelkorn.