Ladysmith Little Theatre is capping off its season with a hilarious musical comedy that helped launched the career of stage and television personality Carol Burnett after the play appeared on Broadway over 50 years ago, earning her a Tony Award nomination.
Based on the fairy tale The Princess and The Pea, Once Upon a Mattress tells the story of Queen Aggravain who has decreed that no one in the 15th Century medieval kingdom can wed until her son Prince Dauntless the Drab finds his true love.
“She’s not mean, she’s just heavily, highly protective and they make fun of that all the way through,” said director Mort Paul, who previously taught high school in Toronto and did the play with his students as well as another community theatre production in Ontario.
Ladysmith Little Theatre’s performance was so appreciated it inspired two donors to contribute to the society’s building fund. Another person dropped a $50 bill in jar kept near the front door venue and was content on not receiving a tax receipt for their generosity.
One of the financial gifts was a whopping $1,000, which is rare for the theatre to receive a single monetary gesture that large.
“It shows their support of community theatre. They’ve always been generous to attend our shows and bring friends and family and they have donated in the past but this was kind of a big ‘oh my goodness’ this is very good,” said executive producer Susan Carthy expressing her appreciation of the donors.
“It’s a good testimony to them too that they’re part of the community, they’re new to the community and want to see the arts part of it all grow as well. ”
Back to Once Upon a Mattress, the play’s lead actor is Belle Warner and she captures the essence of Princess Winnifred – a role at one time performed by Burnett both on stage and television.
“She really does a good job and I said to her a couple weeks ago that I think you were born to play this part and she said ‘I’ve always wanted to’,” said Paul of Warner.
But there are also several other plot lines running throughout the play, which is “full of good character revelation,” Paul notes.
“There’s the jester who always wanted to be a comic dancer, there’s the king who was cursed and can’t talk until the mouse devours the hawk, and then of course there’s the straight love story between Lady Larken and Sir Harry,” he said.
“I think it’s the ideal show for community theatre because there’s lots of parts.”
Ladysmith Little Theatre actors and directors, including Paul, Mary Jackson (musical director) and Ann McInulty-Gogo (Choreography), have been preparing and rehearsing since the beginning of January.
The storybook plot has also required the creation props, a gorgeous set design and elaborate costumes.
“Everybody needs a hat, everybody needs a really fancy dress. The king has two changes, the princess has three changes,” Paul said.
Seven out of the 17 actors performing in Once Upon a Mattress are also new to the theatre; the youngestactor is 16 years old and the oldest is 72.
“It really allows us to keep building,” Paul said.
The entire performance is less than two hours including the 15 minute intermission which makes it perfect for bringing children. Ladysmith Little Theatre has even set a special $15 children’s ticket for the Sunday show to make it more family-friendly for theatregoers.
Paul describes the play as both “light” and “entertaining.”
“The songs and numbers are all fun. It moves so nicely. There’s a lovely flow to the story,” he said. “It’s just good, honest fun.”
Ticket are $25 for non-members $20 for members and groups of 10 or more. Kids (ages 5-18) are $15. Phone 250-924-0658 – Online www.ladysmiththeatre.com Box Office Open Monday, Wednesday, Friday 1-3 p.m.