Monday, June 13, 2011

Once Upon A Mattress: Reflection and tap dance special by Robert Steven Mack

For many years I have performed in such theater plays including comedies, dramas, lovesick romances, and jestful musicals doing everything from joining the Nazis as Rolf in the Sound of Music to selling newspapers on the street as Less in The Newsies. I have enjoyed playing Romeo and Peter Quince in a compilation of Shakespeare classics as well as playing the insecure unfortunate Charlie Brown in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. The latter impersonification has remained to this day one of my favorite roles; indeed, I have high hopes to someday reprise the role of Charlie Brown in a film of my own. I must say ,however, that after almost five years of being with my splendid Kids On Stage troupes, I have never up until known and experienced a play as stupendously, scrumptiously, delightfully entrancing and gratifyingly wonderful to be in as Once Upon A Mattress.

Background: “Once Upon A Mattress,” a satire of the legendary “Princess and a Pea” fairy tale and having starred Carol Burnet in the lead role of the very un-lady like Princess Winifred of the Swamp land who comes from a-far to wed the Prince. “Mattress” debuted in May of 1959 as an off-Broadway musical comedy and later moved to the Alvin theater at Broadway. The hit show was directed by George Abbot and choreographed by Joe Layton, with music by Mary Rogers, lyrics by Marshal Barer, and a book by Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller, and Marshal Barer. The cast included Joe Bova as the lovesick Prince Dauntless who longs for a princess to marry. Jane White stars as the domineering Queen Aggravain who strongly disapproves of her son’s wishes to marry. Robert Weil personified the ruthless, cunning, and evil wizard who conceives unfair tests that a princess must pass before she can be allowed to marry Dauntless. The rest of the original Broadway cast included Allen Case as the gallant Sir Harry, Anne Jones as the damsel in distress Lady Larken, Jack Gilford as the silent but debonair King Mousemus, Matt Matox as the Jester, and Harry Snow as the Minstrel. On the original tour Carol Burnet was replaced by television icon Imogene Coca and the King by the legendary Buster Keaton.

Our show: In the show we put on at Kids on Stage - although I appeared in two different versions playing also King Mousemus - I took on the role of the Prince with a talented ensemble of actors, singers, dancers, and comedians. The musical was primarily under the direction of the always marvelous Kaitlyn Black who put the show together, but subsequently Cari Derbise put her unique finishing touches on the show. I remember the hustle we had the night we previewed the show. It was a night to remember! Still the following show was wonderful and the following show was even better! Two great shows in a row - what a way to go! We had the routine in us, it was second nature by then! I loved my role as the Prince: I was singing, dancing and having a hell of a good time! I felt it could go on forever, that I could keep reinventing my role and the show even better with each performance. As I walked through the theater after the curtain fell, I thought how great the show had been and what a shame it was over.

Future: A nice surprise came to me, however, when Beth Blaney, the president of the wonderful Kids On Stage program that I have been a part for so many years talked to me about what a shame it was to waste all the wonderful choreography and talent and asked me if I was able to return this summer to showcase it elsewhere! I sincerely hope that everyone will return and we can indeed take the show to the road. Well, whether it happens or not, I want you to know that the “Once Upon a Mattress” cast all lived happily happy, and thoroughly satisfied.

I wish to thank Kaitlin Black and Cari Derbise, our directors whom we could not have done it without!

Copyright 2011 by Robert Steven Mack (all rights reserved)

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