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"Mattress" will keep you awake and laughing

Put together medieval costumes, a four-piece band and some wicked jokes, add a classic fairy tale and a roster of talented singers and dancers, and you’ll get “Once Upon a Mattress” — the last show in HART Theatre’s 2012-13 season. The musical comedy is a lighthearted twist on the “Princess and the Pea” fairytale.

It begins with a royal court in the 1500s, where the queen won’t let anyone marry until her son does. The trouble is, she’s overprotective of her son and has set up ridiculously difficult tests for any potential princess. Everyone’s miserable — until Princess Winnifred shows up.

“Once Upon a Mattress” hit Broadway in the 1960s, where it served as comedian Carol Burnett’s Broadway debut.

Burnett played the lead role of Winnifred the Woebegone (“Fred” for short) and “that is what actually made her famous,” said HART’s co-artistic director Ray Hale.

The show became even more popular through a 1972 TV version starring Burnett as Princess Fred again, Ken Berry as Prince Dauntless and Wally Cox as the jester.

Writers Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller and Marshall Barer teamed with composer Mary Rodgers to pack the show with laughs and catchy tunes.

“It’s music that you’ll leave the theater singing,” Hale said. “It’s a performance for the entire family.”

Costumer Kelsey Weaver designed all the outfits, using rich colors and fabrics to create long, flowing skirts, puffy sleeves and posh-looking vests.

From day one, female actors practiced in “rehearsal skirts” simply to get used to maneuvering around the flow of fabric.

“The costumes have to be medieval, but also easy to move and dance in,” Hale said. “That’s always a big challenge.”



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