Everyone knows the fairy tale of the Princess and the Pea. Or at least, they think that they do… The outrageous and hilarious retelling of the classic fairy tale, Once Upon a Mattress, is currently raking in the laughs at the Abron Arts Center.
This fractured fairy tale tells the story of a kingdom where no one get married until the Prince Dauntless (Jason SweetTooth Williams) does. Except his overbearing mother Queen Aggravain (John “Lypsinka” Epperson) is determined that no one will ever be perfect enough for her son, or to replace her as Queen. But she may have met her match in your not so typical Princess Winnifred (Jackie Hoffman).
As Winnifred, Jackie Hoffman is a tour de force of broad physical comedy that seems off-the-cuff and natural, but is obviously the hard work and experience of a Broadway comedy veteran. Hoffman stops the show with her side-splitting songs and Ethel Merman-esque belt, particularly in her introductory number “Shy.” John Epperson is almost the exact opposite, exhibiting careful control as the Tyne Daly crossed with Ru Paul Queen. This control is part of the character and makes her a great foil for Winnifred.
The supporting cast is equally as wonderful. Zak Resnick as Sir Harry and Jessica Fontana as Lady Larken have exquisite classical voices and really shine at playing what would normally be the traditional leads in a romance. The Minstrel (Hunter Ryan Herdlicka), the Jester (Cory Lingner) and the King (David Greenspan) provide wonderful, heartfelt comedic relief in a show already bursting with comedy. The ensemble are a collective of funny quirky individuals that each get a moment to shine.
The direction and artistic design of the show really highlights the idea of simple and specific. The scenery is just line drawings of backgrounds that are seemingly tweaked in real time, adding the genuine nature of the production. Director and Transport Group Artistic Director Jack Cummings III really knows when to just let the actors, story and music speak for themselves and knows exactly when to be bombastic and when to just pull back.
In short, Once Upon a Mattress presented by the Transport Group Theatre Company is a hilarious and smart production that has the audience rolling in the aisles. Do not miss out! Once Upon a Mattress will be playing at the Abrons Arts Center until January 3rd.
Review By: Chrissy Cody
Photos By: Carol Rosegg