Once Upon a Mattress
The cast of "Once Upon a Mattress" rehearses for tonight's opening at the Oak Bluffs School. Photos by Ralph Stewart

Prince seeks his princess

By Julian Wise - November 9, 2006

Tonight the curtain will rise on the latest fall musical from the Oak Bluffs School, "Once Upon a Mattress," featuring dozens of enthusiastic young thespians who have been rehearsing since the first week of school. The play is a whimsical reworking of the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, "The Princess and the Pea," and in its original run in 1959 was the star vehicle for a young Carol Burnett.

Sarah Swift
Queen Aggravain (Sarah Swift), the not-so-nice mother of Prince Dauntless. Will Princess Fred pass the queen's test?

This version features more than 40 young actors and actresses, including the school's principal, Laury Binney, playing the role of the singing minstrel and narrator. In the lead role, the animated Ashley Girard shines as Winifred the Woebegon, princess of the Swamplands, who aspires to marry Prince Dauntless the Drab (Taylor MacNeely.) Unfortunately, the domineering and talkative Queen Aggravain, regally and wickedly portrayed by Sarah Swift, seems determined to prevent her only son from marrying anyone. She devises impossible examinations for all prospective brides, culminating in the classic and famous "sensitivity test" for princess Winifred, placing a pea underneath 20 mattresses and planning to fail her if she falls asleep.

Rounding out the cast are Mitchell Lowe as Sir Harry and Ashley Gwynn as Lady Larken, Devon Lodge as the Wizard who helps the queen with her evil plots, Aaron Wilson as the jester, and teaching assistant Ruben Fitzgerald as the mute King Sextimus. Numerous other students bring the show to life as chorus members and dancers. The show is co-directed by Donna Swift and Shelagh Smilie, with musical director Brian Weiland leading a four-piece orchestra. Aficionados of classic fairy tales will be charmed by this wry twist on the perennial classic.

"Once Upon a Mattress," Thursday, Nov. 9, Friday, Nov. 10, Saturday, Nov. 11, at 7 pm, and Sunday, Nov. 12, 4 pm, at Oak Bluffs School, Trade Winds Road. Tickets are $8 or $6 for students and available at the door.
Reserved seats are available in advance for $12.