Missouri Street Theatre’s current production of “Once Upon a Mattress” was a refreshing show to see during the holiday season specifically because it was not about Christmas.
I am certainly not knocking other companies who have put on more traditional shows (in fact I praised them in recent reviews), but the very fact that Missouri Street Theatre’s offering is not Christmasy made it even better.
Of course, that the show was well-directed, had a killer cast and was performed with precision and was flat-out hilarious may have had something to do with how much I and the audience on opening night loved it as well.
I have seen numerous local shows where the onstage movement was meticulously crafted by local choreographer Staci Arriaga, but, if I am not mistaken, this is the first show I have seen where she was in the director’s chair. I hope to see many more shows that Arriaga directs because the attention to detail that brought her success and respect with dance moves permeated every part of the current show.
“Once Upon a Mattress” is a musical comedy adaptation of “The Princess and the Pea” fairy tale written by Hans Christian Andersen. The show had its Broadway debut in 1959 featuring later TV comedienne Carol Burnett as the princess. It also has been adapted into television specials in 1964, 1972 and in 2005.
The cast was to die for. Dae Spering was enchanting as Princess Winnifred and played the quirky lovable character with exuberance, verve and unbridled hilarity. I think the true mark of when someone just kills a role is when, like Spering, I know them and have seen them in numerous productions and yet when they are in costume and under the lights, I don’t think of them as the person I know offstage at all.
The only thing I saw was a princess nicknamed Fred who came from a swamp, swam in a moat and who delivered stunning vocals on songs such as “Shy,” like nobody’s business.
Kate Richardson absolutely crushed it as Queen Aggravain. She was appropriately snobbish, grating, and overbearing and her inflection, tone and comic timing were impeccable. Her reign as the Queen mother over her precious son Prince Dauntless was perfect throughout.
John Ewing was great as Dauntless and his role was tricky as he mainly reacted to others in the cast but he held his own and shined.
I have become a big fan of Danielle DeBow (Lady Larken) after experiencing her work in a number of shows this year. I like when you expect a certain level of quality and professionalism and it is delivered time and again.
The same goes for Tevye Ditter who played Sir Harry, Lady Larken’s lover. Ditter’s commanding stage presence is enhanced by his wondrous vocals and the interplay and sweet harmonies he shared with DeBow on songs like “In a Little While” were to die for.
Three actors who often shared the stage together to hilarious effect were the Minstrel (Aris Roberson), the Jester (Ethan Bell), and King Sextimus (Derrick Karimian). Roberson narrated the tale with panache. Bell’s singsongy way of delivering his lines was a scream. Karimian’s character was unable to speak and had to pantomime to communicate. I was a fan of his work with local improv group The Rats in the Alley so he was a n0-brianer.
My favorite number in the show was “Song of Love” where the ensemble sings as Princess Fred performs a series of actions that build and build and it ends the first act on a wonderfully high note.
All the elements of the show, lighting, sets, props,and exquisite costumes came together with a talented and well-rehearsed cast to make this fairy tale a dream come true.
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at firstname.lastname@example.org
“Once Upon a Mattress”
8 p.m. Dec. 27-28
6 p.m. Dec 29
2 p.m. Dec. 28
Fairfield Center for Creative Arts, 1035 Texas St.
three and a half stars out of four