‘Once Upon a Mattress’ takes the stage at Theatre Baton Rouge

Youth musical is a full production

It’s a trick, no doubt about it.

The pile of 20 mattresses is proof that Queen Aggravain believes no woman is good enough to marry her son. So, Princess Winnifred surely won’t detect the pea.

The queen has placed it beneath the bottom mattress without Winnifred’s knowledge. And when Winnifred awakes atop the 20th mattress the next morning, Aggravain will say something like, “What? You slept well? Then you’re not a real princess.”

For only a real princess would feel the lump created by the pea. That’s Queen Aggravain’s story, anyway.

Meanwhile, lovers throughout the kingdom are on edge, waiting, hoping that Winnifred would be the one. Otherwise, they will never be able to marry.

For according to Aggravain’s law, “Throughout the land no one may wed, ’till Dauntless shares his wedding bed.”

That’s the prince’s name, Dauntless. He’s portrayed by Mitchel Boyl in this story, “Once Upon a Mattress,” a musical based on the fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea.”

The show is a production by Theatre Baton Rouge’s Young Actors Program and opens Friday in the theater’s Studio Theatre.

“And Dauntless is so naive,” Boyl says. “He’s just wide-eyed and kind of clueless.”

Boyl is a 15-year-old freshman at Baton Rouge Magnet High School. He joined fellow cast members Claire Bullock and Gabrielle Eaves in this pre-rehearsal discussion. Bullock, 16, is a homeschooled 10th grader. She plays Queen Aggravain.

Eaves, also 16, is a junior at Denham Springs High School. She plays Princess Winnifred.

“Winnifred is bold,” Eaves says. “She speaks her mind.”

And Aggravain?

“She’s in control,” Bullock says. “She’s a manipulator.”

This sort of makes Queen Aggravain the bad guy in this piece.

“It’s fun playing her, because I get to do what I want to the other characters,” Bullock says, laughing.

“Yeah, it’s great playing the bad guy,” Matt Myagi adds.

He’s a 16-year-old Catholic High School junior. He’s played bad guys in past Young Actors Program shows, but this time around, he’s playing Sir Harry, who’s in love with Lady Larkin, played by Emily LeBlanc, an 18-year-old Zachary High School senior.

“Harry has an ego,” Myagi says.

“And Lady Larkin is so completely in love with him that she would do anything to win his love,” LeBlanc says.

So, to put it in high school terms, Harry is the quarterback and Larkin is the head cheerleader.

“That’s exactly what they’re like,” Boyl says. “Harry is the big man on campus.”

“And as you can see, there are several love stories going on this musical,” Jack Lampert says.

Lampert is Theatre Baton Rouge’s education director, as well as director of this show. He directed “Once Upon a Mattress” while working in a children’s theater in Chicago and decided it would be a good fit for Theatre Baton Rouge.

“This will be a full production, not a junior production,” Lampert says. “I looked at the junior script, and there was too much cut out of it. This will be the full musical, and we’ll have a live orchestra.”

Now, since this is the Young Actors Program, all parts are played by children in elementary through high school. Students also are assisting with stage management, props and costumes.

And the nine-piece orchestra’s membership is made up of junior high and high school musicians.

“We had auditions,” music director Beth Bordelon says. “The kids in the orchestra are all all-parish and all-state band members and members of the Louisiana Youth Orchestra.”

Since the Studio Theatre’s space is limited, the orchestra will perform from the “Green Room” next door, its music piped into the theater.

“We’re nervous about that,” Lampert says. “But it’s going to work out.”

Once Upon a Mattress” opened first on May 11, 1959, in the off-Broadway Phoenix Theatre, then moved later that year to Broadway’s Alvin Theatre, now known as the Neil Simon Theatre.

Carol Burnett starred as Princess Winnifred on Broadway, then later took on the role of Queen Aggravain in a television reprisal.

And tonight Winnifred will be put to the test at Theatre Baton Rouge. Will she pass?

You know where to find the answer.

  • CAST: Anna Deshotels, Minstrel; Ben Smith, Wizard; Emily LeBlanc, Lady Larkin; Claire Bullock, Queen Aggravain; Mitchel Boyl, Prince Dauntless; Anthony Bailey, King Sextimus the Silent; Antonio Collins, Jester; Gabi Eaves, Winnifred; Matt Miyagi, Sir Harry; Daniel Crump, Sir Studley; Chris Fields, Sir Luce; Kennedy Benjamin, Lady in Waiting Rowena; Meredith Madison, Lady in Waiting Merrill; Hannah Tanib, Lady in Waiting Lucille; Caroline Feduccia, Emily; Coleen Leslie, Lady Mabelle; Brooke Bell, Princess #12; Ensemble: Jake Leslie, Natalie Feduccia, Virginia Moore, Ella Dupre,, Nanga Kimbeng, Terrell Kimbeng, Darnell Kimbeng, Kaitlin Perry, Ashley Stevens, Bailey Cook, Madison Bridges, Emily West, Chaislyn King, Abigail Kennedy, Brady Ferachi, Jordan Simoneaux, Thomas Griffith, Palmer Bruns.
  • ARTISTIC STAFF: Jack Lampert, director; Beth Bordelon, music director; Samantha Vicknair Murray, choreographer.