LHHS production of ‘Once Upon a Mattress’ promises upbeat, family fun

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By Rachel Madison

The Liberty Hill High School theater department is gearing up for its spring show, “Once Upon a Mattress,” which promises to be an upbeat and funny family play.

Chuck Harris, LHHS theater director, said he chose “Once Upon a Mattress” because it’s very community friendly, among other factors.

“I picked it based on what kids we knew we might have coming back, and it has orchestra,” he said. “There’s a lot of factors you have to think of, like do we have the boys to fill the roles? Our department is full of girls. We have several girls playing roles that are traditionally male roles in the show. We also wanted to have the band play, so we tried to pick something everyone could be involved in.”

Harris said the show is a musical, which means it is very heavy on singing.

“The kids have worked really hard on the music part,” he added.

Senior Erin Goodson, who serves as vice president of LHHS’ thespian troupe and plays the supporting role of the Wizard, said this year’s cast, because it is so large, has students in it who are typically a part of other organizations across the school, like choir, softball and band.

Junior Lisa Welton, who plays the lead role of Princess Winnifred, said it’s amazing that the play was opened to the entire school for auditions because it brought in students who weren’t in theater.

“It opened it up to a wider group of people who had always wanted to try theater,” she said. “This is my first time being in a play. I tried out on a whim because all my friends told me to audition and then I ended up getting a lead role. It’s been an amazing experience.”

This year’s cast is double from last year’s show, with nearly 50 students with roles in the play. Lead roles include Janel McGary, who plays Queen Aggravain; Jack Coker, who plays Prince Dauntless; and Welton.

Although the play doesn’t require any set changes, it has still taken Harris’ classes several weeks to design, build and paint it. It includes an 8-foot platform on wheels that will give the illusion of 20 mattresses stacked up, which the princess will sleep on.

Junior Lauren Evans, who serves as stage manager for the show, said there are around a dozen students on the crew who do everything from keeping order backstage to running technical cues. She said the music in the show is her favorite—from Princess Winnifred’s first solo to the finale at the end.

“It’s a family-friendly show that will be a lot of fun, especially for younger families,” she said. “It’s colorful and upbeat, and it’s going to be very visibly appealing. It’ll be really cool when you see the culmination of everybody’s efforts.”

Senior Jair Frazzini, who plays the supporting role of King Sextimus the Silent, said the play is also very tongue-in-cheek and humorous.

“That’ll be a big plus,” Frazzini said. “It’s for the whole family and it’ll make you laugh.”

Goodson added that the play overall is really fun and simple.

“It’s a fairy tale kind of show, so the community will want to come, and it’s very funny, too,” she said.

The LHHS band is playing music throughout the show, as well as local pianist Linda Hester, who was hired to accompany the band. LHHS music teacher Davina Hendrix did all of the vocal work for the show, while LHHS dance teacher Megan Fitzgerald did all the choreography, Harris said.

“’Once Upon a Mattress’ is the story of ‘The Princess and the Pea,’” Harris said. “However, we decided to pull it out of the medieval times and put it in modern times. The costumes are British royalty costumes. The girls have fascinator [hats] and the knights are all in British uniforms. We didn’t want do it in chainmail and all that.”

Evans said the modern take on the show is “really cool.”

“Everyone is making their roles their own,” she said. “Some of the roles are traditionally male roles, but we switched them to female roles to fit the cast. We’ve twisted the parts to make it work and it’s really unique and cool.”

Harris added that he tries to make the most of the money given to the theater department in its budget each year, but putting on musicals isn’t cheap.

“It costs about $4,000 just for the rights to do them,” he said. “We try to make that back in our ticket sales and have some seed money for the next year’s shows. We try to sell ads to the community, and we’re always looking for community sponsorships and for help underwriting what we’re doing.”

“Once Upon a Mattress” is a play by Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller and Marshall Barer, with music by Mary Rodgers and lyrics by Marshall Barer. It opened off-Broadway in May 1959, and then moved to Broadway. The play was written as an adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea.”

“Once Upon a Mattress” will show Jan. 17, 18 and 19 at 7 p.m. and Jan. 20 at 2 p.m. in the LHHS Performing Arts Center. Reserved tickets are $15, and general admission, students and faculty tickets are $10. Tickets can be purchased online at www.showtix4u.com.

Rachel@LHIndependent.com

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