Goofy, comic flair elevates 'Mattress' Children's Theatre work has zany characters

March 19, 1998|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The chief claim to fame of "Once Upon a Mattress," Broadway's musical version of "The Princess and the Pea," is that it launched Carol Burnett's career a few decades back.

It's a cute show, full of goofy characters who elicit lots of laughs from kids of all ages thanks to a clever, rather off-beat script.

The score, though eminently forgettable, is worth a listen when placed at the service of the lecherous kings, co-dependent queens, princes, princesses, knights, ladies-in-waiting, and other oddballs who populate the stage.

What I like best about the Children's Theatre of Annapolis production of "Mattress," which plays at Anne Arundel Community College's Pascal Center this weekend is the comic flair demonstrated by the cast. Zany characters are played larger than life, and comic timing is beyond reproach.

Kristi Ambrosetti is hilarious as Queen Aggravain, the overbearing monarch who is so determined to keep her son, Prince Dauntless, from marrying, even as she keeps up pretenses in a search for a suitable wife.

Ron Scott is a study in comic concentration as he dons Clark Kentish glasses to play the geeky prince so under Mummy's thumb. He refuses to lose his character.

Diana Dulin is feisty indeed as "Fred" (Winifred, actually), the princess who swims straight into Dauntless' heart by way of the castle moat. She's quite funny, especially in her climactic bout with insomnia as she counts sheep.

Fine singing comes from Angelica Divens as the sweet, sensitive Lady Larkin, and Dan Sonntag is a bundle of energetic talent as her headstrong suitor, Sir Harry.

Notable for some very engaging pantomime is Justin Crovo as the mute King Sextimus. You'll also be impressed by nimble Max Gross playing a very engaging court jester, and Eric Eaton who gives the Minstrel much more personality than he usually gets.

I could muster only three quibbles in the show. Energy flagged in the "Happily Ever After" song. Keep the adrenalin flowing, kids.

The recorded overture is played far more softly than the rest of the score, which makes no sense at all because there are no young voices to drown out in an opening instrumental piece.

And the intermission lasted far too long. In a house full of youngsters, some of them toddlers, it's best to keep things moving.

"Once Upon a Mattress" will be presented at 7: 30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Pub Date: 3/19/98

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