OPENING TONIGHT: Once Upon a Mattress with performances on Friday and Saturday

The full cast of Once Upon a Mattress rehearsing for tonight's opening performance  - Image (c) JGMS
The full cast of Once Upon a Mattress rehearsing for tonight’s opening performance – Image (c) JGMS

Submitted by Amy Budka

This coming weekend brings another JGMS Spring musical to our community: Once Upon A Mattress will be performed on Thursday March 14th and Friday March 15th at 7 pm, and on Saturday, March 16th at 6 pm, at the John Glenn Middle School auditorium on McMahon Road. Tickets are $9.00, and can be purchased at FETCH IT on Great Road, as well as at the Davis, Lane and JGMS school offices.

Our show is a hilarious twist on the classic fairy tale The Princess and the Pea. The Kingdom’s tradition dictates that no one can get married until the Prince is wed. This is a problem for Prince Harry (Matthew Bridgeman) and Lady Larken (Julia Doucet), along with all the other young bachelors and bachelorettes in the kingdom, because they are desperately in love.

Queen Aggravain (Natalie Tomeh) would like to keep her coddled baby boy at her side forever, and twelve hopeful contenders are miserable after failing her impossible tests. But, a bedraggled Princess Winnefred (Caitlin Dooks) arrives seeking refuge and a dry change of clothing after swimming the castle moat, and Prince Dauntless the Drab (Jordan Perzel Mandell) is instantly smitten.

Is Number thirteen the charm? King Septimus (Parker Taggard) can’t voice his opinion on this, since he has been put under a spell and does all of his communication with sign language. With help from her Wizards (Felicia Barber and Ben Woodward), the Queen should succeed with her plan to thwart all possible contenders for the Prince’s hand in marriage, but the Jester and the Minstrel (Jared Rushanan and Nate Fisette) have other plans.

These hard-working actors and musicians are joined by dozens of supporting cast members. Stage Manager Will Speciale works with Tech crew managers Kyra Bemis, Conor Wisentaner and Morgan DerMarderosian to coordinate crew members on backstage, props, lights and sound. All together, 130 JGMS students are involved in the show.

Bedford High School musicians add a professional touch to the pit orchestra led by Linda Aiken: Emma Ferguson on flute, and Ali Khazaei Nezhad on violin.

The script for this version of the play is part of a Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization series called “G2K.” (Getting to Know…) This collection of adapted classic Broadway shows makes it possible for young people to discover and explore musical theater in flexible formats that are tailored to middle school groups.

Here is some of the information from the study guide for students, but most JGMS cast members would agree that their favorite version is the 2005 Disney movie version with Zooey Deshanel and Matthew Morrison from Glee.

“Once Upon A Mattress was originally written as a one act musical at Camp Tamiment in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains. The camp included Tamiment Playhouse, which became a pre-imminent workshop for upcoming theatre, dance, film and television artists, mostly specializing in comedy. Those who spent time at the camp in their formative years include actors Danny Kaye, Bea Arthur, Imogene Coca and Carol Burnett; directors Max Liebman and Herbert Ross; choreographers Joe Layton and Jerome Robbins; and writers Woody Allen and Neil Simon.

Once Upon A Mattress opened on May 11, 1959, Off-Broadway at the Phoenix Theater, formerly the famed Yiddish Art theatre on Manhatten’s Lower East Side. It proved successful enough to warrant a move to Broadway, where it opened at the Alvin Theatre (now the Neil Simon) on November 25th of that year. It starred the young woman who had played the leading role of Princess Winnefred the Woebegone at Camp Tamiment, Carol Burnett.

Carol Burnett received a Tony Award nomination for her performance, launching an extraordinary career that would encompass Broadway, film, and especially television. “Once Upon A Mattress” also received a Tony nomination for Best Musical of the season (it lost to a musical with a score by Ms. Rodger’s father and Oscar Hammerstein II, The Sound of Music. It ran 460 performances, moving during its run first to the Winter Garder Theatre, the to the Cort, and finally to the St. James, where it closed on July 2, 1960.

It was filmed for television in 1964 and again in 1972, with Burnett recreating her acclaimed performance in both versions. It was filmed a third time for television in 2005, with Burnett stepping into the role of the wicked Queen Aggravain and Tracey Ullman playing Princess Winnefred.

A 1996 revival starred Sarah Jessica Parker and received a Tony nomination for Best Musical Revival.

Once Upon A Mattress has been presented throughout the world in dozens of languages and remains one of the most often produced musicals at schools, community and professional theater companies.”

JGMS Music Teacher Amy Budka sends bravos and bravas to her former students for their triumphant success in Footloose at Bedford High School this past weekend. Those who follow the development of talent in the performing arts in Bedford will understand how proud Budka is to see the artistic growth of these young men and women. Many were first introduced to the world of musical theater through their participation in JGMS productions of Bye Bye Birdie, Charlie Brown, Fiddler On the Roof, Alice in Wonderland and Seussical, the Musical.


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