PSA: Once Upon A Mattress Opens April 24th At UWM’s Peck School Of The Arts!

Once Upon a Mattress
Apr 24-28, 2024 – Mainstage Theatre
Directed by Sheri Williams Pannell
Music by Mary Rodgers
Lyrics by Marshall Barer
Book by Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller and Marshall Barer
Once Upon a Mattress, a comic masterpiece based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Princess and the Pea, propelled Carol Burnett to stardom as Winnifred the Woebegone, a simple swamp princess hoping to win the hand of the prince despite all odds. This hilariously wacky romp is filled with witty, charming, and wonderfully romantic songs and dance numbers composed by Mary Rodgers. It serves as a delightful bookend to a season that began with a neglected gem by her father, Richard Rodgers.

More INFO and TICKETS!!

Lake Country Players: The Clockmaker’s Daughter, An Original Musical Faerytale.

You might guess from the subtitle, An Original Musical Faerytale, that the scene isn’t our present day America. No, much of the story is an Ireland of about a century ago…although it does bookend in contemporary times but where better to hear a faerytale than the old sod?

Cory Klein as Abraham Reed. Photo courtesy of Lake Country Players and Taran Schatz Photography

So what is our faerytale? An Irish clockmaker, who lost his wife in child birth, loses his daughter as she was approaching young adulthood. In his sadness and depression he fashions a clockwork figure to take the place of his daughter in his life. And once wound up, she becomes animated and cognizant beyond his wildest dreams. But ever fearful for her well-being, he forbids her from leaving their home…but she can see the great and intriguing real world right outside their very window.

So of course, her curiosity overcomes her fealty to her ‘father’, and when he’s away she ventures out of the house into Spindlewood…where she meets the town’s people and finds many friends and many new emotions. And all goes well as no one suspects her origins until one fateful day when…everything goes awry. You will have to experience the play to get the rest of the story.

Jyrajo Petit-Walla as Constance. Photo courtesy of Lake Country Players and Taran Schatz Photography

So this IS a musical…the songs and lyrics are truly amazing. They not only move the story forward but they are just beautiful to behold in their own right…and there are a number of very challenging duets and solo pieces within the ensemble pieces that are just amazing. But despite the apparent complexity, Director Sarah Jo Martens’ cast just nails it…and kudos also to Music Director Tracy Garon for bringing these songs to the fore and making every voice a joyous celebration.

And this is a faerytale, but it goes beyond that. It is a story of community, in good and bad times, there is sadness and joy, depression and elation, love and hate, hope and curiosity, a bit of jealousy, family dynamics of different bents, and rash and irrational fears that tear a community apart.

Lexi Ellis (center) as Amelia Glynn. Photo courtesy of Lake Country Players and Taran Schatz Photography

But this is also a master class in presenting a full sized musical in a jewel box theater, something the Director Sarah Jo Martens can be particularly proud of. There are twenty two characters here…and at times they are all on stage…a seemingly small stage…my guess about 25 feet wide and 15 feet deep. And for a Clockmaker’s Daughter they had to share a corner of the stage with the raised platform for the band. And the action is constant, and I mean CONSTANT. Not only the action but the setting and resetting of the set pieces and furnishings…all cleverly designed and moved throughout the performance. The set design team is Kimberly Laberge and Adam Harrison. And again my thanks to Music Director Tracy Garon for keeping the voices on cue and on tempo…but also to Choreographer Thom Cauley for creating the ensemble dance pieces and Stage Manager Danny Polaski for keeping it all straight. I never was sure where to look as the actors were again, constantly in motion, but I never suspected a moment of hesitation in the dance or song.

Ben Ardis as Will Riley and Jyrajo Petit-Walla as Constance. Photo courtesy of Lake Country Players and Taran Schatz Photography

So, I have rambled and rambled and haven’t mentioned the actors! So let’s start with the clockmaker’s daughter, Constance, as played by Kyrajo Petit-Walla. Petit-Walla does an incredible job of portraying the initially clumsy and awkward clockwork doll and then with her growing cognition and learning, becomes a young lady of Spindlewood. Her ‘father’, the clockmaker Abraham Reed, is played by Cory Klein, who also has to portray the gamut of emotions, from grieving father, to doting father, and finally to worried parent as events transpire in Spindlewood. Ben Ardis plays the love interest for Candace, one Will Riley, a seemingly put upon son of the seamstress Ma’ Riley, with visions and hopes of a great future adult life for himself. Ma’ Rainey is something of an enigma here, a deft artisan, a stern taskmaster in her shop, and a sales lady on demand, and finally a community activist and skilled liar at the end. She is played by Danielle Katers…and oh what a voice as she has a significant song in the first act. One other stand out is Lexi Ellis who plays Amelia Kelly…soon to be Amelia Glynn in a marriage that sets the turning point in the action in the play. Ellis portrays a loving fiancee, true friend, and strong personal presence in the story.

Again, I am amazed that Lake Country Players has taken on such a demanding piece of theater…and again they have excelled in their presentation.

Photo courtesy of Lake Country Players and Taran Schatz Photography

Two Quibbles:

First, with the authors. The constant change in venue from clockmaker’s workshop, to town’s square, to dressmaker’s workshop, to brook, to mayor’s home, and o’er and back seems a disincentive to small companies interested in staging this musical. Martens and team overcame the challenge.

Second, at times the music is too loud. Particularly during some solos…the band obscures the vocals making the lyrics difficult to hear…and of course, the lyrics are critical to the story.

Here is the link to their website with more information. Unfortunately the site indicates that the show is sold out. But click through and plan on seeing their upcoming shows…from my experience, I can’t imagine that the Lake Country Players will disappoint and the drive to Hartland is worth it!

Photo courtesy of Lake Country Players and Taran Schatz Photography