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New York run: Phoenix Theatre, May 11, 1959 

Plot Synopsis

Once Upon A Mattress was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's The Princess and the Pea, but any close resemblance between the two is almost coincidental. Carol Burnett played the lead role when the play opened off Broadway in 1959, and her handling of the snappy dialogue helped establish her as a comedienne par excellence.

The action takes place in 1428 in an unnamed kingdom with a peculiar dilemma. The royal marriage law says no one may marry until the prince, Dauntless the Drab, takes a wife. Queen Aggravain insists that the bride be a "genuine" princess and has devised countless tests to "protect" her beloved son. The tests are outrageous, to say the least, and Princess No. 12 is destined to fail as the play opens.

With hope fading fast, Sir Harry sets out from court in search of yet another princess. Harry has a special interest in getting the prince married off, because his own love Lady Larken is already in a family way.

The princess Harry finds in his quest is Winnifred the Woebegone, who comes from a swampy kingdom where people have frogs instead of dogs for pets. Winnifred, or Fred as she likes to be called, arrives in court by swimming the castle moat rather than waiting for the drawbridge.

Fred's unconventional behavior gives the queen the idea of using a test of sensitivity to eliminate her from the marriage sweepstakes. The plan seems foolproof. First of all, get the princess good and tired doing that new dance, the Spanish Panic, at the royal ball. Then give her some warm milk laced with opium, burn heavy incese in her chamber and make sure the proper incantation is said to activate the hypnotic mirror. 

How could anyone go through all that and still be troubled by a tiny pea placed under 20 thick mattresses? 


Cast of Characters

Princess Winnifred Carol Burnett
Prince Dauntless the Drab Joseph Bova
Queen Agravain Jane White
Minstrel Harry Snow

Songs from the Show - Act One

Overture Orchestra
Prologue: Many Moons Ago Minstrel
Opening For a Princess Court
In a Little While Larken, Harry
Shy Winnifred, Court
The Minstrel, The Jester and I Minstrel, Jester, King
Sensitivity Queen, Wizard
The Swamps of Home Winnifred, Ladies
Normandy Larken, Minstrel, Jester, King
Spanish Panic No. 2 Court
Song of Love Dauntless, Winnifred, Court

Songs from the Show - Act Two

Entr'acte Orchestra
Opening: Quiet! Queen, Court
Happily Ever After Winnifred
Man to Man Talk Dauntless, King
Very Soft Shoes Jester
Yesterday I Lvoed You Larken, Harry
Nightingale Lullaby Nightingale of Samarkand
Finale Court

1990-1991 Production

Presented March 1-9, 1991 at the High School of Commerce Auditorium, Ottawa, Ontario 

Ottawa Citizen Review  

Production Team

Director Paul Gaffney
Musical Director Marlene Hudson
Choreographer Susie Bregg-Krzyzanowski
Co-choreographer Karen Belanger
Production Coordinator Faye Lavell
Assistant to Directors J.A. Wallace
Set Designer Nancy Solman
Costume Designer Jill Thompson
Assistant to the Costume Designer Brenda Caiger
Lighting Designer Bruce Morrison
Sound Technicians Bill Butterworth, Frank Burke
Master Carpenter John Solman
Workshop Chairman Tom Shields
Stage Manager Marylin Day
Assistant Stage Manager Terry Dacey
Properties Mistress Susan Dacey
Hair Design Daniel Roberts
Makeup Design Melva Scott, Barbara Seeton
Accompanist Lorna Rice


Princess Winnifred Barbara Seabright-Moore
Prince Dauntless Barry Daley
Queen Aggravain Sheila Shields
King Sextimus Robin Bowditch
Lady Larken Lisabeth Livingston
Sir Harry Eugene Oscapella
The Minstrel Jonathan Taylor
The Jester Jim Robertson
The Wizard Vern Fraser
Lady Rowena Christine Drew
Lady Merrill Betsy Wimbs
Lady Lucille Michelle Tardif
Sir Studley Gary King
Sir Luce Duncan Morgan
Knights Kevin Kelly, John Murray, Peter Messier
Princess No. 12 Guylaine Roy
Lady Emily Barbara Armstrong
Lady Mabelle Julie Saumur
Nightingale of Samarkand Kathryn Romanow
Nuns Rose Carnduff, Erika Wood
Monks Alan Mainguy, Jim Morrison
Ladies Suzanne Castanza, Brenda Firobin, Michelle Furlong
Gentlemen Steve Kerstetter, Wayne Nolan

Queen Aggravain Understudy: Suzanne Castanza 


Under the direction of Marlene Hudson

Reeds Liliane Mabson, Veronica Milroy, Dave Ward, John Hilchie
Brass Sid Holmes, Michel Renaud, Brenda, Cook, Drummond Hudson
Bass Sol Gunner
Percussion Art Beers
Keyboard Yves Laroche 

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