by Beverly Creasey
Monica Tosches should be proclaimed a national treasure... Or at the very least our state bird. She chirps and chortles and flies about in a perpetual state of euphoria and good will, even when a nasty queen is plotting against her --- Oh, and that would be in the Wheelock Family Theatre's totally nutty "Once Upon A Mattress".
Director Jane Staab has transformed Mary Rogers & Marshall Barer's lightweight musical --- known chiefly as the vehicle that chauffeured Carol Burnett to fame -- into a frothy, fun-filled evening of sweet songs and even sweller shenanigans.
Bobbie Steinbach gets to rant and rave as the overbearing queen who thinks a little pea under twenty mattresses will stop Monica Tosches from marrying her son. Pshah. Steinbach is hilarious, especially inventing "The Spanish Panic" . Imagine Glinda the Good Witch with the heart of Attila the Hun, and you have an idea of Steinbach's m.o.
Byron Darden is adorably goofy as the simple-minded Prince and Larry Coen is just where he should be (over the top) as the queen's long suffering, silent (He doesn't speak) husband. His gestural "Trio", with the very verbal (and very funny) Gary Thomas Ng and Michael David Brown, is sheer delight. Musical director Jonathan Goldberg keeps the evening in tune and the orchestra ship-shape. The romantic sub-plot with Kendall Hodder and Grace Napier isn't as much fun as the silly business, but it's a nice excuse for some lovely singing.
Robin McLaughlin's costumes are pleasantly clownish, especially for Ellen Peterson as the squawky nightingale/chicken. Kudos to the ASL interpreters, who add whimsical touch when one of the signers gets into the act, accepting an invitation from the silent king.
Alas, Danila Korogodsky's giant tower/thrones look the same side-to as frontwards or backwards, so the time spent moving them about is fruitless, not to mention their loud, hissing hydraulic brakes, which make you think a truck is approaching any minute. Towers aside, this "Mattress" has stuffing --- and lots of bounce --- and a happy ending.
What could be better?