Many a child has grown up hearing Hans Christian Andersen’s tale about a princess who proved her pedigree by feeling a tiny pea beneath a stack of 20 downy mattresses. Hackmatack Playhouse debunks this fanciful fairytale with satirical glee, offering up an off-the-wall rendition of Mary Rodgers’ “Once Upon a Mattress.”
Jerard James Craven sets the stage with fun touches to amuse the eye. Painted stonewalls glisten with a rainbow sheen and prophetic banners, emblazoned with a mouse that has eaten a hawk, hang from the castle ramparts.
The Berwick playhouse has cast a lively group of performers who clearly revel in slaying the fairytale archetypes with overt parody. Gone are the handsome prince, gallant knight and stately wizard of lore, replaced by Drew Masse’s childlike Prince Dauntless, Taylor Morrow’s pose-striking Sir Harry and Christian Arnold’s showbiz wizard, sporting purple facial hair.
Lisa Joyce heads up the cast as Princess Winnifred, a role originated in 1959 by Carol Burnett. She delivers a no-holds-barred performance that keeps the laughter rolling with full-body comedy, outrageous antics and vocals that are wonderfully over the top on “Shy” and “Song of Love,” a duet with Masse’s Dauntless.
Shay Willard, Melissa Zeller and Chris Gempp are well cast as the comic trio of the Minstrel, Jester and King Sextimus. The audience laughed Saturday night as the King, mute from a family curse, pantomimed his lyrics while the Minstrel and Jester sang “The Minstrel, the Jester, and I.”
Zeller also delivered a standout performance of “Very Soft Shoes,” recalling the days of Vaudeville.
Sara Sargent and Jess Andra round out the cast as Lady Larkin and Dantless’ domineering mother, Queen Aggravain. Sargent brings mock scandal as Sir Harry’s pregnant maiden, and Andra is the villain that you love to hate.
The madcap production features a 19-song score that, like the character names, pokes fun at the fairytale genre. The cast, backed by a five-piece orchestra and 10-member ensemble, delivers the songs with comic flair. “Spanish Panic” is a show highlight, featuring the cast and ensemble performing a high-energy dance that’s reminiscent of the Charleston.
“Once Upon a Mattress” is an irreverent musical from start to finish, and Hackmatack Playhouse’s spirited cast is milking it for laughs.
WHERE: 538 School Street (Route 9), Beaver Dam, Berwick
DATE REVIEWED: July 30; continues through August 13
TICKETS: $25-$30 adult, $20-$25 seniors, $10 high school students and younger
CONTACT: 698-1807; www.hackmatack.org