Rome High debuts ‘Once Upon a Mattress’ tonight
In the world of fractured fairy tales, “Once Upon a Mattress” ranks as one of the best at turning its source material on its head.
Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Princess and the Pea” is still recognizable — the pea, a pile of mattresses and a sleepy princess are still key elements. However, the musical version adds a queen with a wicked scheme up her royal sleeve, a hapless prince who can’t escape his mom’s control and a mute king who must pantomime everything to his able sidekicks Jester and Minstrel to be understood.
Oh, and that sleepy princess? She’s the princess of a swamp who happens to not fit the Disney mold at all.
All this and even more surprises await you if you take time this weekend to catch the Rome High School Drama Department’s production of the musical “Once Upon a Mattress.”
The show has been a departure for some of its stars, especially Sam Godfrey who portrays Prince Dauntless, a character he calls, “a man with the mind of Golden Retriever.”
“He’s a man child,” explained Godfrey. “I have always been cast as the curmudgeonly man in previous shows, so this is the literal opposite.”
While the role was a lot of work, he’s enjoyed it, he said.
“It was a challenge, and I wanted to work more on it to bring him to life,” said Godfrey. “The physicality of playing a child in an adult’s body. To throw a tantrum as a grown man. I’ve never had to do that before.”
Godfrey, a senior, said he especially enjoyed having the chance to play Dauntless, because it is such a memorable role for his senior year.
Lilly Hubbard portrays the fun role — Queen Aggravain — the villain of the piece.
“You can vent all your frustrations with a role like this,” Hubbard said, smiling. “It’s really fun to be mean and play a rude character.”
Along with getting to let out her wicked side, Hubbard also had to get herself used to playing a regal personality.
“I’ve never played anyone of high status,” she explained. “I am usually all over the place, lots of energy, with my acting, but with her I have to be more mature.”
Park Fincher, who portrays Winnifred, the swamp princess who captures Dauntless’ heart, loves her character because she is like her.
“She is goofy, outspoken,” said Fincher. “She is not a stereotypical princess. She is funny. Every little girl wants to play a princess one day, and I’ve got the perfect one for me.”
Fincher does admit that with her more musical background, she found it a bit of a challenge switching to theater.
“Remembering the lines, the blocking, remembering to face the audience and listen to cues,” she laughed. “It was different, but I like it.”
Freshman Malik McKay is the understudy to the Minstrel and a member of the ensemble. He’s had quite a shift in his behavior since he started drama, he said.
“I came in here scared, honestly,” he admitted. “Now I feel like I’ve sang in front of millions of people, so that ripped that scared feeling right out of me. The shyness is gone.”
The show provided another first time experience for Fernando Ortiz, a sophomore who is running the show as stage manager.
“It’s really a lot of responsibility,” Ortiz said. “But it’s something I’m glad to have. I go to every rehearsal, so I get to see the cast every day. I’ve seen everyone improve as they work on their roles.”
While Ortiz knows the show is not really one that everyone knows, he feels it will definitely be a crowd-pleaser.
“I have grown to love it over the last few months,” he said. “We have a good cast and they’ve worked hard. I hope everyone comes to see it and loves it as much as I do.”
Hubbard loves fairy tales, saying she used to read them with her grandmother when she was younger.
“I’ve read them all,” she said. “I love Disney movies. The ‘Princess and the Pea’ story is so well known. I’d just like to tell everyone to come see it because it is a lot of fun and you can see how much hard work has been put into it. It’s always more fun to watch a live performance and we do break that fourth wall and talk to the audience sometimes, so you feel like you’re part of the show.”
Godfrey also hopes that the show will draw a crowd that is ready for a crazy, fun story that the whole family can enjoy.
“There are jokes for kids and adults,” he explained. “So everyone can have a good time. The price is right, not expensive at all.”
Shows of “Once Upon a Mattress” are today and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at the Rome High School auditorium. Tickets are available at the door and are $7 for adults and $5 for students and seniors.