'Once Upon a Mattress' a fun take on fairy tale

By JULIE McHALE - TimeOut Theater Critic

September 19, 2013


FORT ATKINSON - Many a fairy tale has been converted into a delightful film or stage show. Such is the case with “The Princess and the Pea,” now dubbed  “Once Upon a Mattress,” which is now showing at the Fireside.

A confectionary of colorful costumes, some good comedy and music - though not memorable - are pleasant enough to accompany the tale.

Carol Burnett put her signature on this one. Both Burnett and the show cashed in. Since then, it has continued to be a favorite for community and school theaters, and even dinner theaters as in the case of Fireside, which opened this favorite to run through October 27.

Costume designer Robin Buerger must be mentioned upfront because of her contributions to the success of this show. The headgear was especially eye-catching, and Queen Aggravain’s ermine-trimmed  robe was particularly interesting.

The minstrel, nicely played by Ned Donovan, sets up the plot in song. Prince Dauntless, an ironic name for this coddled son of Queen Aggravain and her mute husband, King Sextimus, is looking for a princess to marry, but his overbearing mother seems to be in charge of the recruits. Thus, he doesn’t have much say in the matter.

Enter Winnifred, solicited by the troubled Sir Harry in order to save his skin in view of his pregnant girlfriend Lady Larken’s dilemma, and everything changes. Dauntless is immediately attracted to this brazen, unconventional auditioner for the princess position, and pretty soon others join forces with the timid Dauntless to give her a chance to thwart Queen Aggravain’s negativity. The 20-mattress scheme fails, and Winnifred passes the impossible test of not being able to sleep because of a nagging pea.

Leah Morrow gets the prize for her outstanding rendition of Winnifred. She even strikes an amazing resemblance to Burnett, though a smaller version. Others who deserve mention are Cathy Newman as Queen Aggravain and Michael Haws as the silent, oversexed Sextimus. Matthew Schwartz is good as the overprotected son who finally speaks up.

Beautiful voices from Lady Larken and Sir Henry, played by Jessica Jaros and David Sajewich, respectively, as the pair destined to survive the trauma of an unwanted pregnancy. The Jester is also nicely portrayed by Darius Fearrington.

It is a fun show for sure.

“Once Upon a Mattress” runs through Oct. 27 at The Fireside, 1131 Janesville Ave., Fort Atkinson. For showtimes and tickets, call 800-477-9505 or visit