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Once Upon a Mattress Musical Comedy

Student poster
Student Created Poster

Once Upon a Mattress Musical Comedy

If the title—Once Upon a Mattress—of this year’s musical doesn’t grab you, then perhaps the fact that it’s a humorous adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea” will delight you.

Once Upon a Mattress is a collaboration between middle and upper schools. Auditions were held at the end of the 2021–22 school year, and the cast was determined this past September. All the students who auditioned will play at least one role, while others have multiple roles. In the end, there are two casts and each cast will give three performances. That’s a lot to keep straight but fear not, the musical is in good hands.

Behind the Scenes

The original Tony-Award Winning Once Upon a Mattress opened off-Broadway in May 1959 with music by Mary Rodgers, lyrics by Marshall Barer and a book by Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller and Marshal Barer. The Northwest’s version is written and directed by theater faculty Ashleigh Bragg with assistant director credits going to senior Ayden D. The musical is choregraphed by dance faculty Maya Soto; our very own band will be performing the music, conducted by music faculty Erin Keeton-Howard; Zach Humes, performing arts faculty, oversaw construction of the set; and senior Nathan L.D., who plans to pursue theatrical design after graduating, is the lighting designer.

In Their Own Words

“This is only my second time directing a show, so I still feel like everything is unexpected and new,” says Ayden. Blocking scenes comes naturally to her because she’s been acting since childhood, which helps her feel comfortable transferring a scene from the page into movement. “Directing is a completely different feeling from being in character. I have to understand all the characters and their choices rather than just one.” Ayden finds working with her peers a fascinating experience, especially coaching students while being coached herself.

Laela M., an eighth grader, plays the roles of Princess #12 and Lady Mabel. “I play Princess #12 as a slightly meek person who has been raised to be ladylike and proper. Lady Mabel is a bold, extravagant person who, even though she is foreign and only speaks French, has still managed to gain the reputation of a charmer.” At first, Laela struggled to make such a dramatic shift. But the support of castmates and the character research she conducted have helped her perfect her vision for each character. “It has been a great experience and has grown my acting knowledge and skills significantly.”


A Special Stage to Gaze Upon 

Zach and students spent the first half of the school year reconfiguring the Black Box Theater into what’s called a thrust stage. “The challenge in designing scenery for a thrust is audiences can view it from all angles, so scenery needs to be finished on at least three sides,” Zach says. 

Two more interesting elements: The set, largely constructed of wood, needed to be reinforced at the top to provide a platform where some of the scenes will take place. And the orchestra pit is integrated into the center of the set, under the platform.

The set, now largely complete, will be refined during tech rehearsals before performances begin next week. Zach emphasizes, “Everything you see and hear is built and operated by students in the middle and upper schools.” Real world learning at its best.

All performances will be held at Northwest’s Black Box Theater, where we promise you will not find a pea beneath the cushion of your seat!