Students deliver comical, memorable performance

By Hannah Amante

The Cal Poly Pomona Music Theatre Workshop gave its first performance of the musical comedy “Once Upon a Mattress” on May 10 at 8 p.m. in the Music Recital Hall.

The original musical was written by Mary Rodgers and opened on Broadway in 1959.

CPP’s adaptation was directed by Tony-nominated director, actress and singer Susan Egan, who has starred on Broadway as the original “Belle” in “Beauty and the Beast.”

CPP faculty members Janet Noll and Joel Wilson served as the musical directors for the show. Noll played the piano on stage, while Wilson sat at the keyboard. Percussionist Scott Smith completed the three-person band, which accompanied all musical numbers and added flourishes in between lines of dialogue.

There was no shortage of well-timed laughs from the audience on opening night.

As Egan described on the program, the plot of “Once Upon a Mattress” was truly that of a fairy tale “turned on its side.”

The plot took the well-known fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea” and added several comedic twists and side plots involving a jester (Chelsea Wong), a wizard (Sean Sterns); a narrating minstrel (Joshua Situmarong); a knight (Carlos Cardenas) and a lady-in-waiting (Cindy Varghese).

The villain of the play is Queen Aggravain (Mikella Anson), the prince’s possessive mother who is determined that her timid son, the ironically named Prince Dauntless (Scott Robinson), not get married. She puts all candidates to impossible game show-like tests in order to determine whether they are real royalty or not. She also places a hold on all palace marriages until her son finds an eligible bride, much to the distress of the ladies-in-waiting.

The entire cast and ensemble gave strong performances, making each character memorable to the audience.

The most notable acting performance came from Cara Borschardt, who played Princess Winnifred, the clumsy but endearing heroine. “Once Upon a Mattress” is her first musical at CPP.

The most memorable moments came from the delivery of witty one-liners that sent the audience roaring.

Nicholas Aguilera, who played the mute but flirtatious King Sextimus, did a great job pantomiming to the other characters.

Of course, the most important thing that gives a musical its character is its songs. The musical numbers ranged from highly energetic to warm and sentimental, and all of them required a high vocal range. Each song enhanced the mood of each scene and carried the story forward.

The most fun songs to listen to and watch were “Shy,” in which Princess Winnifred’s personality is first introduced; “The Spanish Panic,” a dance number the Queen uses to tire the Princess out enough so that she will not feel the pea under 20 mattresses; and “Man to Man Talk,” in which King Sextimus tries with frustration and ultimately triumph to explain the facts of life to his son.

The costume, sets and props were colorful and cartoon-like, contributing to the lighthearted mood of the musical.

With the three excellent directors at the helm and a cast of performers that put their all into the show, “Once Upon a Mattress” was a musical worth seeing.

Rating: 5/5

"Once Upon a Mattress"

Ivan Aguilar / The Poly Post

“Once Upon a Mattress”

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