“I didn’t ask to be famous. All I asked was to be able to earn a living
making people laugh.”
I don’t know about you, but I just love musical comedies. Strike up the band, raise the curtains, give me some razzle-dazzle, a bunch of high-flying songs — and I’m a happy camper. That’s why this Friday evening was big for me. I had the chance to see the handsome and wonderfully talented son of a friend of mine cavort on the stage in the light-hearted confection Once Upon a Mattress. What could be more fun than watching a bunch of high-school students with strong pipes and tons of energy dance and prance their way through a madcap musical? The lights go down, the curtain goes up: magic!
Now Once Upon a Mattress isn’t Othello or even Oklahoma, but it certainly has its charms. It’s based on Han Christian Anderson’s fairy tale, The Princess and the Pea. It opened on Broadway in 1959 — back when things were a whole lot simpler. Carole Burnett first created the role of Princess Winnifred and loved the show so much, that forty-six years later, In a TV version, she played the role of Queen Aggravain (there’s a name for you!), a real pill, who tries to keep her son from marrying spunky Winnifred. Now that’s versatility!
Amazingly, the show managed to survive enough ups and downs to be revived on Broadway in 1997 with Sarah Jessica Parker playing the princess. What is there about this show that keeps it going like the Energizer Bunny? It’s fun, frothy, based on a familiar story, and it’s got some knockout roles. But there’s something else going on, I think: In our heart of hearts, we all want to believe that the world will one day discover who we truly are. Any musical that that dangles this possibility before us is bound to be a hit.