MSS play Once Upon a Mattress proves a hilarious romp

Members of the Manitoulin Secondary School production of ‘Once Upon a Mattress,’ the fast-paced comedy take on the real story behind the familiar fairytale ‘The Princess and the Pea,’ take in a well-deserved ovation during their curtain call following a performance on the school’s stage. photo by Michael Erskine

M’CHIGEENG—The Princess and the Pea is a familiar story to generations of adults and children alike, but the ‘real story’ as presented in the Manitoulin Secondary School production of Once Upon a Mattress (presented through special arrangement with R & H Theatricals with music and lyrics by Mary Rodgers and Marshall Barer and based on the book by Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller and Mr. Barer) proved to be a far more entertaining evening’s diversion.

Veteran fans of live theatre might be forgiven for assuming this production to be the result of an experienced crew of thespians, as it in some ways is with so many sophomore students under the lights. There are few theatre companies in the North who could have topped this outstanding effort.

Princess Winnifred the Woebegone, the frantic romantic lead played by Mackenzie Gilmore, provided a hilarious counterpoint to her hapless, yet swamp-struck, partner Prince Dauntless the Drab, played to perfection by Brad Sayyae.

The indomitable (or is that dominating) helicopter fairy-tale mom Queen Aggravain would put the Red Queen to shame as played by Jessica Jordison, while James Scott’s King Sextimus the Silent was nothing short of a slapstick delight. Both artists used their body language and expression to relay far more than their lines (or pantomime as in the case of the silent king).

Minstrel Alexa Gordon is the ‘narrator’ of the piece, and her performance meshed with incendiary chemistry with her fellow actors.

The Jester, played by Rebecca Dawson, would have completely stolen the show were her fellow actors to have been of any lesser calibre. As it was her turns onstage, of which there were many, proved to be an unqualified delight. Whether it was dance, soliloquy or her deadpan translations of the slapstick pantomime of the silent king, Ms. Dawson’s timing and execution was that of an actor carrying many more years under their belt.

The second romantic lead paired Max Chapman’s handsome and ambitious Sir Harry with Kayla Greenman’s beautiful and frustrated Lady Larken. Both players translated their roles into a subplot that brought pathos to the relationship between these somewhat less than perfect aristocrats and had the audience rooting for them in spite of themselves.

Carolyn Glasby’s charlatan stage magician turned court wizard added leaven to her scenes, providing yet another thread in this intricate tapestry of a production.

Each of the supporting cast delivered outstanding turns onstage, including Princess #12, played by Grace Duncanson; the Nightingale of Samarkand played by April Torkopoulos; Sir Studley  played by Liam Leblanc, Sir Luce played by Jordan Moore; Sir Gawain played by Nick Harper; Sir Tristan played by Tommy Wiwchar; Sir Mallory played by David Hall; Lady Mabelle played by Jordanna Dedman; Lady Rowena played by Carissa Holiday; Lady Beatrice  played by Donnshai Bruleigh; Lady Merrill played by Laura Brown; Lady Lucille played by Sandi Kuntsi; Lady Gwendolyn played by Katie Gillespie; and Lady Helena played by Kendra Jordison.

Making up the chorus were Tierra Abotosaway, Kate Chapman, Darci Debassige, Grant King,  Ronin King, Jocelyn Kuntsi, Ethan Leblanc and Lydia Pennings.

Artistic director Tom Scott can be very proud of his charges, considering the outstanding effort and exquisite timing exhibited during the production. The producer of the play was Yana Bauer and the musical director was Chris Theijsmeijer.

The work of choreographer Casey Boisvert also stood out in the performances of the actors, as many of the scenes exhibited some pretty fancy footwork, often with a large number of cast members whirling onstage. The execution of the dance moves and sight comedy speaks volumes as to the dedication of all of the actors as this tight a performance does not come about by chance or even talent—it takes a lot of sweat equity to pull it off.

Technical director for the production was provided by Heather Theijsmeijer and the head of costumes was Jill Ferguson. The costuming was truly marvelous and meshed with the set design and technical execution of the production values to produce a medieval backdrop that helped to augment the production. The stage manager, who kept it all flowing smoothly, was Courtney Oswald.

While many of the actors in Once Upon a Mattress will be moving on to post-secondary aspirations next year, leaving behind a bar set high, judging by the work of the younger supporting actors and the skill and dedication of the adult production support, the future of live theatre at MSS shines bright.