Once Upon A Mattress Brings Fractured Fairy Tale To Stage

Once Upon A Mattress , Genesius Guild
Once Upon A Mattress comes to the Genesius Guild July 21-30, 2017. (IMAGE SUPPLIED)

Hammond, IN-(ENEWSPF)- If you thought you knew the story of “The Princess and the Pea,” you may be in for a walloping surprise as you take in the Genesius Guild of Hammond’s latest production, Once Upon a Mattress.

An off-beat re-telling of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea,” the production focuses on a royal family whose matriarch, Queen Aggravain (Mary Craighead), has ruled that no one in the kingdom may marry before her son, Prince Dauntless (Harry Ogrentz). She keeps the kingdom single by foiling every marital candidate the prince entertains.

When the noble Sir Harry (Chong Choe) and Lady Larken (Antoinette J. Alessio-Gomez) learn they are about to become parents, however, they set out to put an end to the queen’s tyranny so their baby may be born in wedlock. Sir Harry finds the perfect candidate for Prince Dauntless’ bride in Princess Winnifred (“Fred” to her friends) (Mary Pasyk), an uncouth woman from the “wrong side of the swamp.” With the help of Sir Harry, the Minstrel (Gary J. Mion) and the Jester (Jamel “Yogi” Williams), Fred sets out to overcome Queen Aggravain and win her true love’s heart.

“Once Upon a Mattress” also received a Tony Award nomination for Best Musical. It features a score by Mary Rodgers with lyrics by Marshall Barer, and book by Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller, and Marshall Barer. Talkin’ Broadway calls it “fun and effervescent.” MSNBC hails it as “a peppy spoof.” During its original Broadway run, the play made Carol Burnett a household name as Princess Winnifred. Years later, Burnett brought the production full circle with a turn as the Queen. For director Gary Mion, this show has afforded a similar track – he played the Wizard in a production at Thornridge High School many years ago.

“I have always loved this show and its playful take on how people make assumptions or follow silly rules,” says Mion. “The whole (show) takes on the feel of many of the old ‘screwball comedies,’ where things are meant to be fun, and poke fun at people and things that take themselves way too seriously.”

That sense of irreverence has made for fun in rehearsals, and in the characterizations put forth by the cast.

“Winnifred is everything that a stereotypical princess should NOT be, but in the most endearing and hilarious way,” says Mary Pasyk, who plays the character in this production.“The most enjoyable part of creating Fred is stretching my imagination to let her be as big and crazy as possible. It’s always fun to see where I can take a character and give her my own little quirks and attributes.”

“There is a wide variety of silly and quirky humor that audiences of all age groups will enjoy,”  says Chong Choe. “The ability to walk in someone else’s skin while working with some wonderful and talented people around you is the magic of theatre, and the magic and mayhem of things going on  in this show makes the process that much more fun.”

The cast of the show is rounded out by additional local thespians, including Zach Pierce as King Sextimus the Silent, Alan Piwowar as the hapless Wizard, and an ensemble including Maria Machura, Michael Casner, Alexandra Fernandez, Sarita Reyes, Shannon Hayes, Kari Mack, Ana Fejes, Katie Isaacs, Madison Pischner, Alissa Fernandez, David Adam Reyes, Gilbert Oria, and Bridget Barnett Choe.

Carried on a wave of wonderful songs, by turns of hilarious and raucous, romantic and melodic, this rollicking spin on the familiar classic tale of royal courtship and comeuppance, provides for some side-splitting shenanigans. Chances are you’ll never look at fairy tales quite the same way again.

“The whole should be a great deal of fun to watch,” says Mion. “We all only hope that our patrons will laugh at the performances as much as we have been doing in rehearsals!”

Once Upon a Mattress takes the stage weekends July 21 through July 30. Performances are in the Fellowship Hall at First United Methodist Church of Hammond, 6635 Hohman Ave. in Hammond, Indiana, at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. A 3 p.m. matinee will be performed Sunday afternoons. Admission is $15 for adults, $13 for senior citizens and students high school age or younger. Tickets are available at the door or by calling toll-free 877-724-7715. A group discount is available for groups of 15 or more; contact the box office for details and reservations. Additional ticketing specials are being held on various nights; see the Facebook event page at http://tiny.cc/GenesiusMattress or www.genesiusguild.com for details.

About the Genesius Guild

The Genesius Guild of Hammond, Indiana is a community theatre ministry of the First United Methodist Church of Hammond. For over 30 years, the Guild has existed as an outreach of the church and the community to promote and support community theatre, community programs and the arts for the enrichment and welfare of the citizens of Hammond, the citizens of Lake County, Indiana, and the greater theatrical patronage of the surrounding region, and to further the education of and provide entertainment to its members and the community in the area of theatrical arts. The Genesius Guild is a member in good standing of the Northwest Indiana Excellence in Theatre Foundation (NIETF) and the Indiana Community Theatre League (ICTL), and continues to seek ways to reach out to the community. Visit the Genesius Guild on our web page at www.genesiusguild.com, or like us on Facebook to receive continuing updates.