SusquehannockTheatre Showcases Talent with a Comedic Edge in “Once Upon a Mattress”

Susquehannock Theater Cast of “Once Upon a Mattress” poses for a photo following their last show on Sunday, March 24, 2024. Photograph Courtesy of Katelyn Katterman via Instagram
Susquehannock Theater Cast of “Once Upon a Mattress” poses for a photo following their last show on Sunday, March 24, 2024. Photograph Courtesy of Katelyn Katterman via Instagram

Lights, camera, action- two and a half hours of singing, dancing, acting and rejoicing all came to an end faster than the blink of an eye.

Susquehannock Theatre presented their debut of “Once Upon a Mattress,” which introduced kings, queens, princes and princesses from all over the land, and put on a nearly flawless performance. 

On Friday, March 22, the ensemble performed “Once Upon a Mattress,” a musical presenting a modern take on “The Princess and the Pea.” Within this, a castle full of royals await  Prince Dauntless, played by sophomore William Dumm, to get married. Yet there is a challenge to be faced, the Prince’s mother, Queen Aggravain played by senior Jaiden Davey, will not allow just any princess to marry her son; instead, a true princess must prove herself by passing the Queen’s impossible ‘test.’ 

Susquehannock Theater’s cast perform “Shy” during the production of “Once Upon a Mattress.” Photograph Courtesy of Susquehannock Theatre via Instagram

Through the journey the cast takes us on, they invoke many laughs when transporting the audience inside their castle of disputes and elated chaos. The story involves many different characters inside the castle, including a tangled love story between Lady Larken, portrayed by sophomore Kylie Herzog, and Sir Harry, portrayed by senior Wyatt Gutridge. The fairytale couldn’t have been told without the Minstrel, played by senior Owen Lutz, who transports the audience with his witty and calming demeanor, making the musical feel more personable. And, of course, the lovely Princess in waiting-or rather barging- in the castle, Princess Winifred, played by senior Cordelia Jenkins who displays her playful and ditzy character while falling head over heels for the Prince. 

The musical is able to entangle many different storylines and characters in a way most believe to be in a true castle; although, sometimes it seemed as if the plot was very stationary. Some of the occasional numbers were not needed to move the fairy tale’s plot forward. Although these scenes may not have been directly related to the plot at hand, they served as comical relief for the audience and brought in characters, such as King Sextimus, played by senior Teddy Hill, and the Jester, played by senior Reese Ambrose. Nevertheless, the range of numbers and scenes were entertaining and joyful, and the ending scene tied the story together well. 

There were many assorted costume changes, and no background character was forgotten from these designs. Many of the dresses designed for the lovely princesses in waiting displayed assorted colors, fabrics and patterns that efficiently represented the medieval time period of the musical. One standout of the costumes, however, was Queen Aggravin’s headwear, which evoked many supportive laughs from the audience and even fellow cast members. Throughout the scenes, her fashion choices ranged from hats only a few inches tall to large enough that she needed help from her fellow princesses to carry her headwear out onto stage with her. 

Along with the beautiful costume designs, the background setting was delicately designed  and detailed as a stone wall of the castle with steps leading down to the pit orchestra below the stage. Despite this, there was an absence of additional background behind the castle walls, which were filled by a white curtain with colored light that changed between scenes. 

Perhaps due to budget constraints, there was a lack of smooth transitions between scenes. In an attempt to cover the missing set, the lighting behind the stage did change a series of colors fitting to each scene, and the spotlights were used very well to single out characters when producing monologues or solo songs. Some characters even roamed to the floor of the theater, a spotlight following them around the seats of the audience, making the musical feel more interactive and personal. The sound crew was even able to use sound effects to add to the scenes by making certain actions pop off the stage.

 Creating the ambience, the pit orchestra never failed to set the mood for each coming number. It was able to perfectly capture the fairytale’s whimsical tone, complimenting the talented singers on stage. 

Kiley Herzog portraying Lady Larken and Wyatt Gutridge portraying Sir Harry perform their number “In a little While,” during the Susquehannock Theater production of “Once Upon a Mattress.” Photograph Courtesy of Susquehannock Theatre via Instagram

Voices that stuck out in particular were sophomore Kylie Herzog and senior Cordelia Jenkins. Similar to last year when Herzog amazed the audience with her alluring voice, she was given multiple opportunities to show off her talents, and to say she excelled is an understatement. In her role as Lady Larken, she was given numbers that revolved around her love for Sir Harry, in which her calm yet captivating voice fully displayed her feelings for the knight. In a lead role, senior Cordelia Jenkins’ enticing voice stood out throughout her numbers; she is able to control the stage with her authoritative voice and projects to all corners of the auditorium. 

These two singers were not the only roles that stood out to the audience. Senior Teddy Hill created lots of laughs with his role of the comedic relief, King Sexitmus. This role had its challenges, as the king was not given any lines because his voice had been taken away from him in a curse. However, Hill was able to exceed in his role as his character improvised by conducting a game of charades every time he wished to speak. A true favorite moment of the audience lies at the end of the musical, when King Sextimus regains his voice back and is now able to order around his bossy wife. 

The King’s wife, Queen Aggravain, played by senior Jaiden Davey, was a demanding and powerful role. This could be seen as quite the challenge; however, Davey took this role head-on and perfected the Queen’s demanding personality. She was able to control the scenes and stage very well. In one scene, she walks the perimeter of the entire theater around the audience, reciting a monologue that lasted over 30 seconds, and she didn’t miss a beat. 

Occasionally, the microphones were delayed or cut out and could interrupt the scene or number, causing the audience to strain in attempt to hear the cast. However, the cast persevered through and did not let it phase them, continuing on as normal and projecting their voices throughout the auditorium.

The musical explored many different ideas and aspects of life in its numbers. However, sometimes this was at the expense of the innocence of the crowd when venturing into mature subjects to extract a laugh. This was demonstrated in the song, “Man-to-Man Talk” between King Sexitmus and Prince Dauntless, featuring the ideas surrounding married life culture during which King Sexitmus attempts to teach his son about the birds and the bees. 

The chemistry between the cast members seemed more playful than serious with standout pair of Lady Larken and Sir Harry, their love story grabbing the audience’s attention.

Overall, there were impressive feats overcome by the cast in some of their challenging roles, and they were able to create the whimsical and playful environment essential to the telling of fairy tales. Some of the cast’s standout voices and heartening performances helped tie the musical together to avoid any stereotypical judgment of  ‘inexperienced’ or ‘mundane’ high school acting.

Susquehannock Theater Cast of “Once Upon a Mattress” poses for a photo following their last show on Sunday, March 24, 2024. Photograph Courtesy of Katelyn Katterman via Instagram

The hard work of the cast, crew and all those involved in the production of this musical was very evident in the successful performance, and it receives a 4 out of 5 feathers on the Courier rating scale.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.