Ciara Corcoran, Abagail Rozmajzl, and Kristen Washington (Katy Carlson)

All reviews are written by Cappies student critics and edited by Cappies adult mentors prior to publishing.

Erika Gallagher, a student at Thomas Edison High School , reviews “Once Upon a Mattress” performed by Paul VI Catholic High School as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

“Many moons ago,” in Paul VI Catholic High School, “lived a handsome prince” named Dauntless (Alex Siegal) along with his mute father, King Sextimus (Brendan McAlevy), and his talkative, manipulative mother, Queen Aggravain (Kristen Washington), in the tale of Once Upon a Mattress. Prince Dauntless has finally reached marriage age, but the Queen has other plans; the prince cannot marry a princess unless she passes a royalty test. To make matters worse, “throughout the land no one may wed, ‘till Dauntless to the altars led!” This becomes a personal problem for Lady Larken (Elinor Curry) and Sir Harry (Jason Lockwood), who have a baby on the way. Thus, after twelve princesses have failed at seeking Dauntless’ hand, Harry embarks on a quest to find a true princess, and returns with a girl like the kingdom’s never seen before. All this and more occurs in this re-vamped version of “The Princess and the Pea,” premiering on Broadway in 1959 with music and lyrics written by Mary Rogers and Marshall Barer respectively.

The show is filled with a variety of fun and interesting characters. Sarah Giuseppe’s take on Princess #12 was quirky and hilarious, while Aaron Jacobs lived up to his role as Sir Studley. As Dauntless, Siegal created an adorably awkward momma’s-boy who grew with his love for the princess. Numbers such as “Opening for a Princess” and “Song of Love,” showcased his acting, singing, and physical prowess, making the audience laugh with nearly every line he said. McAlevy’s portrayal of King Sextimus was expressive and engaging—an impressive feat for a mute character! What he didn’t have in words, he certainly made up for in facial expressions and dedication to his character in songs such as “Man to Man Talk” and “The Minstrel, the Jester and I.” The Minstrel (Taylor Kiechlin) and Jester (Jacob Rozmajzl) created the perfect dynamic duo, both having excellent comedic timing and beautiful voices. They handled difficult songs and harmonies with ease in numbers such as “Normandy” and “The Minstrel, the Jester and I.” The actors had great chemistry, with the Minstrel, Jester, and the King, Dauntless and Princess Winnifred, and father-and-son duo Dauntless and Sextimus creating entertaining, well-developed, and downright adorable relationships. Freshman Abigail Rozmajzl played Princess #13, Winnifred the Woebegone (informally known as Fred), and knocked it out of the park. Although she may be small, Rozmajzl blew the house down in various belting numbers such as “Shy” and “Happily Ever After,” not only singing well, but also exhibiting great verbal and physical comedic timing.

As a whole, the ensemble performed with great commitment and energy, even during the smooth scene changes. The Knights of the Royal Court were particularly impressive as they nailed their notes and were easily heard regardless of their position onstage. The ensemble handled numbers such as “The Spanish Panic,” “Song of Love,” and “Shy” with great energy and commitment, with dancers Spencer Loessberg and Kayla Sharpe giving stand-out performances with impressive lifts and flips.

Scott Wehner created interesting lighting effects that seldom cast shadows on characters’ faces, while a few spotlights shakily found their targets. The sound was consistent, but some actors could not overpower the orchestra pit.

Paul VI’s polished production of Once Upon a Mattress was a funny, heartwarming, quirky tale told expertly by the PVI players thanks to an engaging and energetic ensemble, well-executed punch lines, and a talented group of singers and dancers that kept the show moving well into the night.