ONCE UPON A MATTRESS
book by Jay Thompson, Marshall Barer and Dean Fuller lyrics by Marshall Barer music by Mary Rodgers.
Union Theatre 204 Union Street SE1 0LX To 23 December; 2-5 January 2013.
Tue–Sun 7.30pm Mat Sun & 5 Jan 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS:0207 261 9876.
Review: William Russell 1 December.
Panto Broadway style
’Tis the season to be jolly and the Union’s Sasha Regan, doyenne of the fringe musical, has come up with as delightful a seasonal offering as one could imagine with this 1959 American pantomime in which true love wins through.
The score by Mary Rodgers is charming, Marshall Barer’s lyrics witty, and if the book – Jay Thompson, Marshall Barber and Dean Fuller – runs out of steam in act two, so does Hans Andersen’s story of the Princess and the Pea on which it is based, because once the putative Princess has had a sleepless night that is it.
Queen Aggravain (Paddy Glynn in fine monster form) does not want her darling son Prince Dauntless (Mark Anderson, nicely gormless) to wed, placing insuperable obstacles in the way of all who claim to be real princesses. Much to the despair of the Court, since none of her ladies can marry until the Prince has a bride.
Worst hit is Lady Larkin (Kimberley Blake), three months pregnant by Sir Harry (Stiofan O’Doherty), who loves her dearly and himself even more. The knight sets off to find a bride for Dauntless and brings back Princess Winnifred from the Swamps, a lady of ample charms (Jenny O’Leary) for whom Dauntless falls after she reveals she has swum the moat in her haste to reach him.
In due course the Queen sets her trap – 20 mattresses with beneath them a pea, knowing only a sensitive royal could possibly have a bad night in the circumstances. Naturally her plan fails.
Jenny O’Leary, a young Vicar of Dibley type, delivers a nicely judged funny turn as Winnifred, while Daniel Bartlett, rather under-used, and Ryan Limb lend strong support as a jester and a minstrel who ensure there is more than a pea in the bed.
There is spirited choreography by Racky Plews – the dance designed to tire Fred out before bedtime is an ensemble tour de force – and director Kirk Jameson keeps all moving smoothly. It is a very slight show, but if it had to be done again, this is about as good as it gets.
Prince Dauntless: Mark Anderson.
The Jester: Daniel Bartlett.
Lady Merrill/Maybelle: Natalie Bennyworth.
Lady Larkin: Kimberly Blake.
Sir Studly: Ashley Cooper.
Knight: Matthew Daw.
Sir Harry: Stiofan O’Doherty.
Queen Aggravain: Paddy Glynn.
Knight: Gregory Hazel.
The Minstrel: Ryan Limb.
The lady Lucille: Lucy Mills.
Princess No 12/ The Nightingale of Samarkand: Danielle Morris.
Princess Winnifred: Jenny O’Leary.
The Wizard: David Pendlebury.
King Sextimus the silent: Denis Quilligan.
Director: Kirk Jameson.
Designer: Kingsley Hall.
Lighting: John Winn.
Musical Director: Alex Parker.
Choreographer: Ricky Plews.
Assistant director: Lucas Rush.
Assistant choreographer: Hayley Ellen Scott.