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The Madeira School Once Upon a Mattress

By • Feb 24th, 2009 • Category: Cappies

In ancient Greek theatre it was very typical for show to consist of an all male cast, even for women’s roles; now, it’s the twenty-first century and The Madeira School brought a new spin to an old tradition. Madeira is an all girls school whose cast brought a female touch to Mary Rodger’s Once Upon a Mattress.

Once Upon a Mattress is a musical based upon the Hans Christian Andersen story of The Princess and the Pea; it made its off-Broadway début on May 11th, 1959 and later that year moved to the St. James Theatre to begin its run on Broadway. Carol Burnett played the original Winnifred, and in the 2005 television special she switched to the role of Queen Aggravain. In 1996 the musical returned to Broadway and received a Tony Nomination for Best Rival of a Musical with Sex and the City’s Sarah Jessica Parker as Winnifred.

Madeira’s production was one filled with good spirit and laughter. The ladies played convincing men due to excellent make-up and wigs. What it might have lacked in focus at times was made up by delightful characterization by the principle actresses.

Prince Dauntless (Olivia May) hopelessly wants to be married, but his mother, Queen Aggravain (Kelly McKinley) thinks that only a true princess is fit for her son. Along comes Winnifred (Margaret Berkowitz) from the swamp to pass the Queen’s test and win Dauntless’ hand in marriage. Dauntless and ‘Fred’ had amazing chemistry that the audience couldn’t help but root from them, and root against the Queen. Berkowitz had a powerful, yet graceful voice. Dauntless had flawless characterization.

The Minstrel (Kemi Adegoroye), the Jester (Olivia Haller), and King Sextimus (Elizabeth Gambal) were the comedic relief trio of the show with their high energy and immense body language, especially for the King who can’t speak due to a curse. Their number The Minstrel, the Jester, and I were not only enjoyable, but was well executed. Adegoroye and Haller’s soothing voices fit perfectly with Gambal’s humorous dancing. Another ensemble to be recognized is Lady Larken (Meghan McKinney) and Sir Harry (Wesley Brandt – the only boy, from Langley High School). Their pure vocals in Yesterday I Loved You and In a Little While gave more seriousness moments to the comedy.

The make-up design by Merrill Roth was very effective, making every member of the ensemble look slightly different from the next, giving it an overall realistic feel (as realistic as a fairytale can be).

The ladies of Madeira breathed life into an old classic with their lovable characters and genuine performances; it was a production fit for a princess.

by Emma Volpe of South Lakes High School

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