Alex Bonsa & the cast of Once Upon A Mattress. Photo: Miranda Nicole Ledford.

Once Upon A Mattress

Music by Mary Rodgers, lyrics by Marshall Barer
Book by Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller, and Marshall Barer
Directed by C. Kevin Swansey

A review by Brian Kennedy

Entire contents are copyright © 2021 by Brian Kennedy. All rights reserved.

In its first in-person performance in more than a year, Clarksville Little Theatre presents a pretty good production of Once Upon a Mattress.

Once Upon a Mattress is a musical comedy sendup of the fairytale The Princess and the Pea.  No one in the kingdom can marry until Prince Dauntless (Nathaniel Roark) weds by decree of his mother, Queen Aggravain (Heidi Platt). However, the queen has a series of impossible tests that each potential princess fails. 

Heidi Platt was marvelous as the extremely talkative Queen. A showcase of Platt’s talent came during the Queen’s early and very, very, long monologue where she spoke about 100 miles an hour for at least two minutes without a break. During that, there were no obvious mistakes and Platt kept a straight face delivering the ridiculous monologue, leading to quite a few laughs and a couple of “wows” from the audience. Throughout the rest of the show, Platt kept up the self-centered and dominating traits of the character, making the Queen a perfect antagonist.

Meanwhile, Sir Harry (Gabriel Petri), who wishes to be with Lady Larken (Margaret Gahagen) has brought to the kingdom another potential Dauntless love interest, Princess Winnifred (Alex Bonsa). Winnifred was not like the princesses before her, and Bonsa plays them to hilarious effect. Bonsa has Winnifred bouncing all over the stage, especially during her song “Shy”. She was very expressive in her movements and voice, projected well, and had a unique energy that made her perfectly cast for Winnifred.

Other actors had standout moments. Jerry Prince was awesome in his mannerisms and facial expressions as the forced-to-be-silent King Sextimus. Also, Quintera Quinn’s overdramatic work as a lady in waiting was exactly what her character needed and brought about some well-earned laughs and attention. 

The rest of the show was mostly okay with a few down moments. Nerves, potentially due to this not only being Clarksville Little Theatre’s first show in more than a year but more than likely the actors’ first as well, seemed to be a problem early on. The energy needed for some songs just wasn’t there. 

Then again, even with the energy, it wouldn’t have saved “Opening for a Princess”, which had downright boring choreography. Characters mostly standing in lines, not doing much movement other than moving in a very tight square, and just singing to the audience is not very interesting. 

There were several off-key vocal moments, most notably in “The Swamps of Home”. Winnifred sounded fine, the chorus not so much. Also, the chemistry and energy between Harry and Larken were missing throughout their song “In a Little While”, although more creative choreography may have helped that as well.

Still though, for anyone who hasn’t been out to the theatre in a while, the performances of the King, Queen, a lady in waiting, and Winnifred should be enough to prompt a visit to Clarksville Little Theatre’s performance of Once Upon a Mattress

Once Upon A Mattress

September 10, 11, 17, & 18 @ 8:00 pm
September 12 & 19 @ 2:00 pm

Clarksville Little Theatre
301 E. Montgomery Avenue
Clarksville, IN 47128

Brian Kennedy is a nearly life-long Louisville resident who has performed in plays since 2004. He also wrote extensively about the Louisville theatre scene for and from 2009-2015. Currently, he maintains the theatre blog LouBriantheater. When not involved in the theatre scene, he is an avid runner, participating in 5Ks throughout the state and in southern Indiana.