Musical comedy at its finest in ‘Once Upon a Mattress’ at Port Tobacco Players

An entertaining cast and marvelous direction make this a hilarious musical retelling of 'The Princess and the Pea.'

In Once Upon a Mattress, the Port Tobacco Players retell the fairytale “The Princess and the Pea” set to a wave of catchy songs. Directors Heather Bauer and Kaitelyn Bauer Dieguez have guided amazing performances that will have audiences laughing. Audiences will be swaying in their seats thanks to the upbeat music by Mary Rodgers and the witty lyrics by Marshall Barer, as well as a book by Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller, and Barer.

The story is this: Queen Aggravain banned marriage in the fantasy world of Once Upon a Mattress until her son, Prince Dauntless, found a wife. Princess Winnifred the Woebegone must pass Queen Aggravain’s tests in the end if she wants to marry Prince Dauntless. Princesses from all over the world came to compete for the prince’s hand, but none of them succeeded in the Queen’s impossible tests. Can Princess Winnifred ace the sensitivity test and wed her prince?

Isaiah Wilson, Dylan Parham, Alyshia Bradley, Katie Ludy, Mary Demarco-Logue, and Seth Lohr in ‘Once Upon a Mattress.’ Photo courtesy of Port Tobacco Players.

The talented cast gave lively performances that brought their characters to life; their singing voices are beautiful and powerful. “Going into rehearsal the cast was told to think of this show as a Monty Python fairytale with all of the crazy, kooky shenanigans and curses,” wrote Bauer in her Director’s Note.

Alyshia Bradley was especially impressive as Princess Winifred. She played the shy swamp princess with grace and charm. Bradley’s vocals were of a polished and professional quality in songs such as “Happily Ever After” and “The Swamps of Home.”

Caroline House as Lady Larken is delightful in her scenes with Jake Jaffe, who played Sir Harry. It was a pleasure to watch Jaffe’s comedic abilities. Sir Harry and Lady Larken’s arc fluctuated between lovey-dovey and bickering, and back again. I liked their rendition of “Yesterday I Loved You.” (Vocals for Sir Harry were performed by Peter K. Ullmann on opening night.)

Queen Aggravain, played by Mary DeMarco-Logue gave a dictatorial performance as she barked out royal edicts. David Ludy used body language and gesturing as the mute King Sextimus. He and his stage son, Prince Dauntless, played by Demetri Black (aka Meech) were memorable in the song “Man to Man Talk.”

Isaiah Wilson, as the Minstrel, provided a comic tone to his scenes. As the Jester, Jacob LeJeune brought a lot of energy and humor to the show. Kim Moore Bessler’s Wizard character was officious.

Katie Ludy proved the adage “There are no small parts” in her work as Lady Rowena. I also liked Dylan Parham and Katie Sheldon’s performances as Sir Studley and Lady Merrill, respectively.

Katie Ludy, R. Hunter Langel, Mary DeMarco-Logue, Michael Beyrle Jr., Demteri Black, Alyshia Bradley, Jacob LeJune, Jameer Fitzgerald, Katie Sheldon, and Elizabeth Campbell in ‘Once Upon a Mattress.’ Photo courtesy of Port Tobacco Players.

Under the tutelage of Sarah Schmidt and Randy Tusing, the actors moved very well to the music. The choreography included elaborate hand-to-hand dancing, claps, and stomps.

Though there were a few songs where the horns and actors were out of sync, Music Director and Conductor Peter K. Ullmann led the orchestra with a flourish. The orchestra’s overture was fantastic. As Ullmann wrote in the program notes, “This is a pretty complex show, and some of our numbers are exceptionally challenging.”

The set design and decoration were creative and eye-catching, and the choreography was energetic. Merritt’s clever set featured a castle-like facade and clever folding walls for changing scenes. Kathy Mead and Joanne Fuesel decorated the set with various fairytale-like flourishes.

Costume Designers Carol Russell and Ashley Goodell created spot-on outfits for the actors. Some of the costumes were a mixture of fairytale and modern, which led to an interesting sight gag in one of the women’s dance numbers. The Jester’s two costumes were gaudy, and Sir Harry’s brown, pie-shaped hat was epic.

Audience members of all ages will enjoy Once Upon a Mattress. With catchy music, funny lyrics, and talented actors, this show will warm your heart on a cold late-winter night.

Running Time: Approximately two hours and 40 minutes, including a 20-minute intermission.

Once Upon a Mattress plays through April 2, 2023, at Port Tobacco Players, 508 Charles Street, La Plata, MD. Tickets ($16.50–$19.50) can be purchased online.

COVID Safety: For all performances, masks are suggested but not required.

Once Upon a Mattress
Book by Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller, & Marshall Barer
Music by Mary Rodgers
Lyrics by Marshall Barer
Producer Debbie Gilley
Asst. Producer Michael Beyrle

Princess Winnefred: Alyshia Bradley
Lady Larken: Caroline House
Minstrel: Isaiah Wilson
Jester: Jacob LeJeune
Prince Dauntless: Demetri Black
Sir Harry: Jake Jaffe
Queen Aggravain: Mary DeMarco-Logue
Wizard: Kim Moore Bessler
King Sextimus: David Ludy
Ensemble: Elizabeth Campbell, Jameer Fitzgerald, Amanda Hastings, River Kreuner, Seth Lohr, Katie Ludy, Dylan Parham, Katie Sheldon

Directors: Heather Bauer and Kaitelyn Bauer Dieguez
​Music Directors:  Peter K. Ullmann
Choreographers: Sarah Schmidt and Randy Tusing
Costume Designers: Carol Russell and Ashley Goodell
Set Design and Painting: John Merritt
Set Decoration: Kathy Mead and Joanne Fuesel
Properties Design: Kim Bessler


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