NBW shows its humorous side in ‘Once Upon a Mattress’


Sabrina French

Winnifred played by Melissa Vanselow, and Prince Dauntless played by Eli Krause.

Everyone has heard the classic story of The Princess and the Pea. It was read to many of us when we were younger, but the idea put in our heads of the legendary fairy tale wasn’t quite the same as NBW’s performance of Once Upon a Mattress. Consisting of a princess who calls herself “Fred,” a power-hungry queen, and a young, over controlled Prince, the humorous play left me wondering what I ever found charming in those classical fairy tales.

Prince Dauntless (Eli Krause) is desperate for marriage. Unfortunately, his controlling mother, Queen Aggravain (Aubrey Trecek), has sent home the last several hopefuls with a chicken as a consolation prize. Sadly, no one else in the castle is allowed to marry until the prince has found a princess.  This leaves Lady Larken (Jenna Szalewski) and the father of her unborn child, Sir Harry (Zach Karolek), in a tight fix.

In an effort to quickly find a princess for the prince, Sir Harry comes across Winnifred (Melissa Vanselow), the princess from a swamp, and brings her back with him. The outspoken contender immediately captures Dauntless’ love and Aggravain’s hate. She is clearly not like the rest of the princesses who have competed for the approval of the Queen. She is loud and not afraid to speak her mind, putting a twist on the typical graceful, quiet mannered fairy tale princess.

The cast of the musical is moderately extensive including the devious old Wizard (Dmitry Becker), the amusing Jester (Alex Zerman), the musical Minstrel (Evan Mckenzie) and silent King Sextimus (Trevor Whittow).

The entire structure of the play was well done overall. There were slight times that the orchestra didn’t quite fit in with the scene, but for the most part it flowed well. The setting with the back drops and props was all relevant and effective in putting the audience in the time of the renascence.

In addition to the exquisite set design, the costumes were creative and appropriate for the play. Everything from the courtiers’ gowns to the jester’s outfit was striking and unique. The orchestra and choreography provided further support to the production. The orchestra’s delightfully, regal horn section not only accented the production but set the tone for many of the scenes. The choreography made smooth, natural transitions from the action and once the choreography got into full swing with “Spanish Panic” and “F-R-E-D, Fred!” it provided a means to get to know the leading lady, Princess Winnifred, much better.

Overall, the musical was well done by the actors and actresses. They brought life to their characters and did a fantastic job of displaying character growth and personality. This was yet another great performance by the New Berlin West Theater.