Northwest NEWS

October 18, 1999


'Once Upon a Mattress' is a delightful romp

by Deborah Stone

   SecondStory Repertory, the Eastside's first fully professional, resident theatre company, recently opened its doors (after breaking ground just eleven months ago) with the highly entertaining production Once Upon a Mattress.

   As the audience filed into the intimate 170-seat space above Borders Books in Redmond Town Center, the smell of fresh paint and a highly charged buzz of excitement filled the air. A full house was on hand to see the company's season opener and it was treated to a delightful show that exceeded all expectations.

   Known as the musical that launched Carol Burnett's career, Once Upon a Mattress is a hilarious, over-the-top version of the tale "The Princess and the Pea." With a simple, yet effective set, colorful period costumes, a repertoire of engaging songs, and a cast chock full of talent and energy, this production is a guaranteed success.

   In a small kingdom many moons ago, the verbose, self-centered Queen Aggravain (Kate Witt) rules her subjects with an iron hand. She has proclaimed that no one in the country can marry until her son, Prince Dauntless (Mark Waldstein) finds a bride.

   The hitch is that the bride must be a real princess and in order to assure authenticity, proof is required. The queen submits potential candidates to ridiculously unfair tests, time and time again, sending the message loud and clear that she really doesn't want the prince to ever marry.

   Gallant Knight Sir Harry (Charles Crowley) searches high and low for a princess for Dauntless and returns with Princess Winnifred (Jennifer Reif) whom he found living in the swamps. The fun begins when "Fred" shows everyone what a wild and crazy gal she is, endearing herself to Dauntless and eventually the entire kingdom, with the exception of the Queen.

   Reif as "Fred" is a hoot! She has wonderful comedic timing and displays the necessary spunk and charm for her role. Witt plays Aggravain to the hilt with a mouth that continually motors on, to the utter annoyance of her family and subjects.

   Waldstein, as Dauntless, plays the mousy, insecure prince with the appropriate hangdog attitude and eventually gains the confidence to assert himself and claim what his heart desires. Of special note is SecondStory's Artistic Director Stan Gill, in the role of mute King Sextimus. With his wonderful expressions and movements, he elicits great humor from his character.

   The ensemble of professional actor-singers works well together and conveys a true enjoyment in performing that is easily conveyed to the audience.

   SecondStory Rep will be offering family theatre, along with concerts, dance, improv comedy, drama classes, and other special events. The company also has a children's theatre division, SPROUTS, which features performances for young audiences.

   Once Upon a Mattress runs through Nov. 6. For ticket information, call 425-881-6777.