“Once Upon A Mattress” – Theater Works

Theater Review – May 8, 2017


Theater Works, Gyder Theater, Peoria Center for the Performing Arts
Peoria, AZ

Back in 1959, there was a small off-Broadway show based on the “Princess and the Pea” that boasted the talents of a then undiscovered Carol Burnett.  The show was so successful, producers moved it to Broadway where “Once Upon A Mattress” added a few new songs and more saucy fun that turned the show into a comic triumph and made Burnett a star.

“Once Upon A Mattress” has a pleasant, if undistinguished, Mary Rodgers score that in no way duplicates her father, Richard’s, great successes but with a cute and funny book and George Abbott jazzy staging, the show rocketed to lasting fame.

Today, the show looks old and clunky but in Theater Works dynamic production it becomes frivolous entertainment.  There’s nothing profound here but you’ll enjoy a madcap distraction.  Chris Hamby’s sleekly paced and well cast staging zips along as the sharp cast features a variety of wacko palace characters and silly intrigue that plagues the environment while sparking madcap malarkey.  It’s all insanely stupid but when it is comically well done, you’ll laugh.

Elaborate and colorful costuming adds as does Steve Hilderbrand’s bright and accomplished orchestra plus a good sound system that insures audiences don’t miss any of the funny dialogue.  Suggestive scenery duplicates palace lushness although the myriad of scenic changes take an eternity to execute which slows the otherwise rapidly paced show unnecessarily.

Beyond the fine production is a near-perfect cast headed by Alexandra Utpadel’s funny Burnett parody as Princess Winnifred who must prove she’s a real princess by not being able to sleep on 20 mattresses because a hidden pea upsets her slumber.  Utpadel has a rollickingly good time as she relishes the zany comedy she executes artfully to keep the audiences amused.  No less comically dynamic is Ryan Malikowski’s dour Prince Dauntless who is held back by his pushy mother, Queen Aggravair, played with upitidy snobbery by Shandi Ilyse as she henpecks her husband King Sextimus, The Silent, played stalwartly by Peter Hart.  Joshua Vern’s Sir Harry tries to bring a semblance of normalcy to the proceedings as Skyler Washburn’s Jester keeps things light and Kathlynn Rodin’s Lady Larken remains haughty.

“Once Upon A Mattress” is a delightfully fun romp through an ancient palace that has a fair number of subtly injected contemporary parallels.  In Theater Works crisp and nice looking production, “Once Upon A Mattress” is nonsensical amusement.  It continues through May 14.  To order tickets, call the Theater Works box office at 623-815-7930 or order tickets online at www.theaterworks.org.

Grade: B