On the same weekend that Americans lose an hour of sleep due to Daylight Savings Time, the musical about someone who loses an entire night’s sleep due to one little legume takes center stage at Irvington High School.
The IHS Drama Club’s performances of “Once Upon a Mattress,” a comedic retelling of the classic fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea,” take place this Friday and Saturday, March 10-11, at 7:30 p.m., with a third performance Sunday, March 12, at 2 p.m.
The show is about how Princess Winnifred goes about winning the approval of Queen Aggravain to marry her son, Prince Dauntless. At the outset of the story, no one in the kingdom is allowed to marry until the prince has found a bride. His mother, however, makes prospective princesses undergo arduous tests to prove their worthiness of the prince. After a series of ordeals, including an exhausting dance and the lifting of a giant barbell, Winnifred is presented with her final test: sleeping on a luxurious mattress under which the queen has placed a single pea. If Winnifred doesn’t notice the pea and falls asleep, the queen will deem her unfit to marry her son.
“Once Upon a Mattress,” with music by Mary Rodgers, lyrics by Marshall Barer, and book by Barer, Jay Thompson, and Dean Fuller, was first performed off-Broadway in 1959. That production gave Carol Burnett, who went on to a major TV career, her big break as the original Winnifred. The show transferred to Broadway, with Burnett, who reprised the role in the first two of three screen adaptations.
Directing this weekend’s performances is music teacher Stephen DiGiovanni, who has been helming IHS productions since 2016. DiGiovanni noted that after two years of pandemic pivots that included a virtual staging of “Alone, Together,” “Once Upon a Mattress” was cleared for a pre-Covid format and schedule. As part of that schedule, the IHS Drama Club traveled to Main Street School and Dows Lane Elementary for previews on Wednesday, March 8.
“This is the first [high school production] that is ‘normal,’” DiGiovanni said. “Last year, right before the show, we were all still wearing masks. And then a week before the show they lifted that restriction.”
DiGiovanni added that many of the 30 students in the cast are seniors who have never been on stage before, making this performance a new experience for them.
On the other hand, there are veteran players, like seniors Jordyn Eckers and James Heins, with a long list of credits. Eckers plays Princess Winnifred, while Heins plays Sir Harry.
Eckers started performing in second grade, when theater educator Peter Royston visited her class to produce a show.
“I was Rapunzel in ‘A Groovy Tale of Rapunzel’ and it changed my trajectory,” Eckers recalled. “That 20-minute production really changed things.”
Heins has been performing since he was in fifth grade. His connection to theater comes from his family, specifically from a conversation he had with his mother.
Discussing his grandfather’s passing, Heins learned that he had been in show business. “He did lighting for a lot of big Broadway shows, like ‘Hair,’” Heins said. His mother then suggested, “‘You should check it out.’ I enjoyed it enough that I kept doing it, and it’s become part of my life.”
Both Eckers and Heins noted that the week leading up to opening night would be arduous. “I’m living here,” Eckers joked on March 6.
Heins added that, while the cast and crew still had to fine-tune the production, “we made a lot of progress since last week… It’s always those last couple of days where stuff really comes together.”
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.