Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Once Upon A Matress"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2012 by Tony Annicone

"Once Upon A Matress"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Newport County's Swanhurst Chorus, under the direction of Jonathan F. Babbitt, presents its 18th Annual Tribute to Broadway with "Once Upon a Mattress". The show is a musical comedy with music by Mary Rodgers and lyrics by Marshall Barer and was written as an adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale "The Princess and the Pea". It opened off-Broadway on May 11,1959 and then ran on Broadway for 244 performances. Due to an unhappy curse, King Sextimus is unable to speak. Meanwhile, his terror of a wife, Queen Aggravian, has taken over control of the kingdom. Most importantly, in an attempt to keep Prince Dauntless single, she has decreed that only the princess that can pass her test may marry her son. Furthermore, no one else in the kingdom may marry until Prince Dauntless does. Lady Larken and Sir Harry are extremely disturbed by this fact since Lady Larken is now pregnant with Sir Harry's baby. Luckily, Sir Harry is able to find an amazing princess, Winnifred the Woebegone. She instantly catches the attention of Prince Dauntless, and in the end, is able to pass the Queen's supposedly impassable sensitivity test. Jonathan is also the musical director, plays the piano, taught the cast the beautiful music and also cooks the fabulous dinner, too. This energetic show is rewarded with a resounding ovation at curtain call. This show is presented in a dinner style theater setting with intimate staging. The meal choices consist of roast pork in brown gravy or Chicken, a boneless breast of chicken finished with cream sauce with as much salad and rolls you can eat as well as asparagus, string beans, mashed potatoes and coffee with a dessert buffet.

Jonathan blocks the show wonderfully. He also obtains lovely harmonies in the group numbers and in the duets with Harry and Larken. Leading this huge cast as Winnifred is Erin Toppa.She delivers a winning performance in this role. Her strong belting voice is heard in "I'm Shy", "The Swamps of Home" and "Happily Ever After" while her duet with Dauntless is "Song of Love" which turns into a big dance number called the Spanish Panic. Playing the Prince is Jason Shealy. He delivers the goods as the nerdy boy who finally falls in love and stands up to his overbearing mother. Jason's terrific baritone is heard in "Opening for a Princess", "Swamps of Home", "Song of Love" and the hilarious "Man to Man Talk" which he sings while his father pantomimes the actions.

Sophie Plowright does a topnotch job as the overbearing Queen Aggravain. Her antics are priceless. Sophie shows off her voice in"Sensitivity" and "Quiet".She is a hoot. Her comic husband is played by Norm Lofsky. His pantomimes are priceless and have to been seen to be believed. Norm pinches the ladies butts in the show. A couple of the best voices in the show belong to Sir Harry and Lady Larken played by Brandon Clark and Renata Belasco. Their duets include "In A Little While" and "Yesterday I Loved You". She also does the quartet number "Normandy" as she tries to escape. The powerful baritone voice of Adam Parr who plays the Minstrel. He opens this show with "Many Moons Ago" and he also does the comic "The Minstrel, Jester and I" as well as "Normandy" with Jester, Larken and the King. The Jester does "Very Soft Shoes" and is played Blake Nance. The Minstrel and Jester learn the secret test from the Wizard. The Queen's henchman, the Wizard is played by Harry Gustafson. The chorus show off their voices in the group numbers with the finale as the standout choral song.. So for an entertaining evening of fun filled frolic with delicious food and drink, be sure to catch Swanhurst chorus' show for a trip back to the 1200's.

"Once Upon A Matress" (3 - 17 March)
SWANHURST CHORUS OF NEWPORT
@ Fenner Hall, 15 Fenner Street, NEWPORT RI
1(401)682-1630

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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