One of my most vivid memories in childhood was seeing Carol Burnett sing “Shy” from Once Upon A Mattress on the Ed Sullivan Show. She was just a newbie then but quickly became a household name. I later saw Mimi Hines play the princess who swam the moot on tour when I was a kid.
This weekend I saw one of my favorite performers, Bets Malone, swim the moat and eat the scenery, in a good way. It is an ideal role for her and she was terrific in it. Especially fantastic was her scene trying to get to sleep on top of those 20 mattresses. She did some funny, funny business for some five minutes and brought down the house. Besides having a good singing voice (she is one of the Wonderettes and will be in yet another sequel, Wonderettes: Caps and Gown this summer in Laguna, she can dance up a storm and has a winning personality.
Ms. Malone would be reason enough to drive on up to Thousand Oaks to see Once Upon A Mattress but she has some able support. Scott Reardon, one of this year’s contestants in Michael Sterling’s LA’s Next Great Stage Star (it helped get him the job), makes a charming Prince Dauntless. His personality is a good match with Ms. Malone.
Danny Gurwin, as handsome a singer as you would want, sang his heart out as The Minstrel. David Newcomer does a good job acting with no words (The King can’t speak). Both Noelle Marion and Isaac James sing gloriously as Lady Larkin and Prince Harry. Special praise goes to the super-talented Tracy Lore as the evil Queen. This lady has moved from leading lady to arch-villain with great ease and she is always excellent.
Richard Israel is the director and does a decent job although he did miss some things that I remember from the original. I believe all the ladies in the court were pregnant, making the dance sequences quite funny. Also the number ”The Swamps of Home” was sung more like a national anthem than just a gag song.
The number “I’m in Love with A girl Named Fred” was fantastic. I also loved the scenic design by Jean-Yves Tessler, especially the hall of paintings, all adaptations of famous works but with Lore’s face superimposed.
Once Upon A Mattress will play at the Kavil Theatre in Thousand Oaks Plaza through April 29.