'Once Upon a Mattress' at Torrington High School

Nancy Sasso Janis

The Torrington High School Student Theatre is presenting Once Upon a Mattress this weekend in their Little Theater (which is actually not so little.) I was able to attend their preview performance on Thursday the final night of April along with some supportive parents and friends. 

The musical boasts as their artistic director the now retired THS teacher Mary McVerry. Ms. McVerry has been involved in the high school Student Theatre for over 40 years, with over 150 plays under her belt, and she is not about to let retirement slow her down.   She has collaborated with math teacher and local community theater actress Sybil Chamberlin, who serves as vocal music director and choreographer. The fine orchestra of seven students is directed by the wonderful Holly McCann and technical direction is by art teacher and carpenter Victor Leger. 

The directors admit in their notes that Once Upon a Mattress was chosen to address the fact that this year there was a "plethora of females and a very limited number of males who are willing to the take a challenge and get in front of the footlights." More about the handful of boys that stepped up the plate later, but with some creative casting, beautiful lighting and impressive costuming, the students pulled off this lovely musical with a royal flair. 

Once Upon A Mattress is based on the famous fairy tale, The Princess and the Pea. The royal book was written by Jay Thompson, Marshall Barer, and Dean Fuller with music by Mary Rodgers and lyrics by Marshall Barer. The story is charmingly told by a wandering female minstrel that is nicely sung by the clear voice of senior Molly Serven. The kingdom is ruled by King Sextimus the Silent (played almost completely in pantomime by Jack Wassik) who has been struck dumb by a witch's curse. His wife Queen Aggravain is played commandingly and loudly by junior Morgan Kolukisa. 

The feared queen talks enough for the whole household and has decreed that no one in the kingdom may wed until her son does. Prince Dauntless is charmingly played by Mitchell Canty. True to form, the impossible queen comes up with a series of impossible tests for any woman who wishes to marry the beleaguered prince and as the play opens, Princess #12 (played by junior Amore Berger) is being tested. 

No one in the kingdom is happy about the situation, but because Lady Larken, played by junior Gina Pirla, and her handsome lover Sir Harry, played by Andrew Schimanski, are to be parents, they are perhaps the most desperate. Sir Harry bravely sets off to parts unknown to find a true princess and returns with the dripping wet Princess Winifred who has just entered the castle by swimming through the moat. Senior Rachel Crook shines in this leading role of a most unusual princess; with a lovely singing voice and pinpoint comic timing, this young actress gave a royal performance. "The Swamps of Home" was the perfect showcase for her talents, as was the fairytale monologue of "Happily Ever After." 

The prince immediately falls in love with her and the angry queen decides the come up with the most impossible test of all for her. With the help of the Wizard (played by a bearded Michael O’Brien) they decide on a sensitivity test - a pea is placed beneath twenty mattresses and the Queen decrees that if Princess Winifred cannot sleep she will prove her royal birth. You know the rest. 

The court jester who serves as the king's interpreter is played by Audrey Todd, and Zoe Alfano sings the role of the nightingale who tries to help the exhausted princess fall asleep.
Other cast members that did a fine job include: Cameron Blaisdell, Sarah Carr, Gabrielle Cianciolo, Brett Comer, Johanna Craig, Lida Currier, Sofia Frauenhofer, Vivian Jimenez-Rijo, Maria Lovetere, Nicolette Marinelli, Julianna Provenzano, Victoria Rooney, Xaniyah Sanders, Vincent Self, and William Wilson. 

Bonnie Owen, who has been involved with THS Student Theatre for the last 11 years, worked with student costumer/ensemble member/propmistress and Halo award winning junior Julianna Provenzano, to create an amazing number of stunning costumes for both the male and female members of this large cast. Sumptuous fabrics and jaunty hats gave the production a rich, fairy tale look.   Kudos to them for what must have been a lot of hard work." 

Congratulations to the student designers involved in this production. Kathryn Meinert was in charge of royal set design which included a lighted catwalk that surrounded the pit. Daniel Camiere did the lighting design, and Alyssa Picard and Glenn Kittle worked on sound design. 

The Torrington High School Student Theatre will present Once Upon a Mattress in the THS Little Theatre close to the Warner Theatre exit in Torrington on May 1, 2, 7, 8, 9 at 7:00 p.m. and Sunday April 3 at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are available at the door or by calling (860) 489-2294 X3411. The students are accepting donations for AmeriCares. Sunday matinee special-pre Mother’s Day special-mom or grandmother comes in free.
Members of the cast of 'Once Upon a Mattress' at Torrington High School Photo by Nancy Sasso Janis