“Once Upon A Mattress”: A Hilarious and Heartwarming Sensation


Catherine Park

Cast of Once Upon A Mattress during their show during March 2019.

Catherine Park

                 This year’s winter musical production of Once Upon A Mattress at BCA was another huge success, thanks to the hard work of the over one hundred students and faculty involved. A spin on the classic tale, “The Princess and the Pea”, Once Upon A Mattress is the story of a queen who devises impossible tests for her son’s prospective brides, insistent that only a “true” princess may marry the Prince Dauntless. The warm-hearted but rather unrefined Princess Winnifred must prove herself a worthy bride and win her prince’s hand. Full of humor and spectacular music, the musical ran from February 28 to March 2, for a total of four performances.

(photo credit: Dan Hu)

The actors and actresses cast in the musical expressed their enthusiasm for the project. AVPA-T junior Casey Beidel, who played Prince Dauntless, talked about how the comedy of the show allowed the cast to experiment with their acting techniques. “My favorite part about playing Prince Dauntless was how ‘out there’ he was. He’s kind of a caricature of a real person, so it felt fun to play this sort of crazily animated character.”

It is safe to say that Casey did a commendable job bringing his character to life. The childishly lovable and awkward Prince Dauntless made the audience laugh throughout the show with his optimistic attitude and hilarious one-liners.

Other members of the cast also delivered unforgettable performances as their larger-than-life characters. AVPA-T sophomore Aidan Winn played the confident and charming Sir Harry, the most admired knight in the land. “He is very unlike me,” he confessed. “One of the joys of theatre is learning about people and the way that they think. Through portraying my role, I was able to explore foreign emotions and feelings, which is such a fun challenge!”

AVPA-T Senior Joyce Zheng explained her process of developing her character, Lady Rowena, one of the queen’s ladies-in-waiting. “From reading the script I could tell that she was a strong and sassy lady,” she said. “Since the musical was a huge comedy, everything had to be played up to the extreme; and so we did. Mr. Kaplan told us to experiment with our characters and have a lot of fun with our roles. So, right from the beginning, I started playing with character voices. I tried different accents, and tried speaking in very low, very wide, very deep, or very nasal tones until I landed with the voice that I used in the show.”

The scale and over-the-top nature of the musical allowed the cast to have fun and experiment, and the audience was able to feel this energy. “All the performers were amazing,” sophomore Miray Samuel, who attended the Friday performance, commented. “One of the things I liked the most was how organized all the dance sequences were.”

Aidan remarked: “One of the most meaningful things I learned throughout the performance of the musical was how powerful theatre is as an artistic medium. It was really amazing to talk to all sorts of people who responded to different moments and characters. To hear that I made someone laugh, or that someone was awestruck while watching a dance number, goes to show the kind of impact theatre has.”

While the actors and actresses played a central role in bringing the production to life, dozens of other students worked to ensure that the show ran smoothly. Students in the pit orchestra provided live music accompaniment, devoting months of practice in order to ensure there would be no mistakes on the day of the show. Student stage managers and members of the crew backstage were present for every rehearsal and handled any unforeseen complications in a professional manner. For all those involved, it was a truly rewarding experience.

“[The musical allowed us to] share the story and the show that we’ve worked so hard on with other people,” Joyce said. “After all, theatre is really about the audience’s experience and affecting them in some way. Our show’s goal was to make the audience laugh and have a good time, and I think we achieved that.”

Those involved in the winter musical encouraged other students to participate in the productions to come. “I think participating in a BCA production is an incredible experience that I wish more students outside of theatre did,” Joyce added. “It’s a very educational experience to work with a director, a cast, a choreographer, and all of the other amazing people that make our shows reach the level of theatre that they are.” She encouraged students to audition for One Acts, which is a production with a much smaller commitment.

(photo credit: Dan Hu)

Even without being on stage, the students attending the performance in order to support their peers’ tireless efforts can have a huge impact on the show. “To get to see a show of such high caliber and support your peers at the same time is an awesome opportunity,” Aidan said.

The winter musical is one of the Academies’ most important annual traditions. It is a chance to celebrate the creativity and artistic capabilities of the students at BCA. As Aidan stated, “Those involved in the show work so hard to put forward their best work. Let us show off! Truly, those involved want to entertain you, so let us.”