Sarah Jessica Parker stars in a Broadway revival of the 1960 Mary Rodgers.Marshall Barer musical Once Upon a Mattress. The critics have had their say; here's your chance to have yours. Please write a review of the show.
How does the humor in this unorthodox retelling of the "Princess and the Pea" story hold up? How do you like the score? Does Parker do a good job as Princess Winnifred? How is the technical side: the sets, costumes, etc. How's the supporting cast? Does know the role made a star of Carol Burnett affect your opinion about the show?
Please e-mail your reviews to Playbill On-Line managing editor Robert Viagas at firstname.lastname@example.org. Answers will be posted as they come in.
Here are the results so far: From NuttyChaos:
Last Sunday, I had the enjoyable experience of seeing Once Upon A Mattress. It was excellent! Sarah Jessica Parker was just delightful. The supporting cast was fantastic. This play delivers everything a good play should. Fantastic music that gets you singing still after the performance. "In a little while just a little while, you and I will be 1,2,3,4 (for) just a little while just a little while...." "Actually, I'm honestly shy...." "And they lived Happily, Happily, Happily, ever after..." If your thinking of seeing a wonderful show see Once Upon A Mattress. It's worth the $70!!! (5/10/97)
I quite enjoyed this show which I saw on March 15th. We had seen Forum the night before and it left me wondering if Senex and Septimus were the same actor in the same costume and the two shows, across the street from one another, had synchronized the parts so that one poor guy could play both parts!
I am old enough to remember vividly Carol Burnett as Winnifred. I thought she was hilarious. What has annoyed me is all the stuff I've read which compares C.B. to S.J. Parker. Certainly a different actress can be allowed a different take on a character, especially when the physical resemblance between the two is nonexistant. Carol Burnett was a large-mouthed, horsey princess. Parker is far more ethereal and cannot use her appearance as an ongoing physical joke. I felt she was effective in the part and was surrounded by some very good voices.
I'd like to remind critics of the plot that fairy tales are generally one-dimensional plot wise, and one should not expect more from them than they can give.
There are some directorial glitches, however. More could be made of the humour in the lyrics. "In just a little while, you and I will be 1,2,3,4, miscues the four/for pun. The part of Merton, Advisor to the Queen, could have been played up. There is too much of the "grim reaper" in both the silence and the costume of this character. He could have been a better foil for aggravatin' Aggravain instead appearing as a Robespierrian Lord High Executioner.
It serves no purpose to pull the production apart limb from limb. It is the consumate whole that is important, and on the whole, we tired tourists enjoyed this piece of fluff which uplifted us at the end of a long and tiring day. (3/20/97)
From Stephen Golden, London UK:
I saw "Once Upon a Mattress" about in mid-February. I thought Sara Jessica Parker did a great job ( much better than her performance in "How to Succeed..." ) as did the actress who played the queen. The singing bard had a lovely voice, but the rest of the production seemed a bit stale. The song "Shy" is the only one I recall ( and I recall it fondly ). The show was cute, but seemed more suitable to high school and college productions. Definitely not a broadway-quality show. (3/20/97)
From TEARSHEETS (LibretoDoc.@aol.com), Los Angeles:
Has anyone noted or bothered to remark upon the extraordinarily fine lyrics by Marshall Barer? Exact rhymes, internal rhymes, word play, jokes that land, and a sense of character, all in a singable flow. Rare is the modern show with comparable craft.
Barer is still alive and active, both writing and performing his own material in cabaret performances. His is a show not to be missed. Why is he not lauded? Honored? Presented as a respected elder of the lyric writing craft? In all I've read about this production of "Mattress," I've not seen him singled out for note (he also co-wrote the book). Why this blind spot?
Just wondering... (3/19/97)
I got in to see "Once Upon a Mattress" recently. I was, indeed, surprised with Sarah Jessica Parker. She can have wonderful comedian skills and belt a song out a the same time (we can now see why she played Annie). But the rest of the show, I must regret to inform you, I did not care for at all! The material is terrible, the songs have absolutely no appeal to them, and it hardly catches your attention when Sarah Jessica Parker is not on stage. Miss Parker will get a Tony Nomination no doubt, but the show without her, would not be appealing. Technically, the show was right on que. The scenery deserves applause as does its lighting and costuming. But the material is slim, and just not tasteful. When Ms. Parker is on the stage, you enjoy the show to its fullest. When she is not, however, you find yourself looking for her. (3/19/97)
From Mike Ceceri (MDCTheatre@aol.com):
I am a very easy person to please. I don't ask much from shows... just a little entertainment! MATTRESS left me in the cold!
The show was boring and unimaginative. The cast was a waste of very talented people. They were paraded on and off the set like it was a 3rd grade Christmas show. They sat on the stage and did nothing. . . years of training to sit! The sets and costumes were nice though! However I could tell the cast was not enjoying themselves. . . even Sarah was rolling her eye in disbelief of the situation on stage!
The true measure was the stage door, however. When that door opened after the show. . . one might have thought it was the destruction of the Berlin Wall again. The cast literally fled the theater. . . hardly stopping to speak with fans!
Essentially the problem is the material is old and dated. . . Michael MacGrath left the show in rehearsals because he felt he could not do a good job as the jester. . . JIM CARREY could not have made that role funny! It all must have looked good on paper (I HOPE WHOEVER IS PLANNING A LIL' ABNER REVIVAL IS READING THIS!) but it just plain did not work.. They should have taken the GREASE approach, rewrite all the music so that at least it is entertaining to see!
Just dial 1-800-MATTRES leave off the last "S" for "Skip-It" (3/19/97)
From Garrick Caton:
I just got back to Abilene, TX and last Thursday (March 13) I saw " Once upon a Mattress." It was hysterical. I laughed so hard I made a spectacle of myself. Afterward I was blessed enough to meet Sarah Jessica Parker. She is one of the few (and I stress few) actresses I have met that did not betray the sincerity of her part. She was so awesome, or I was so awestruck that I could barely utter a word. While I wanted to take my picture with here I was scarcely able to even thank here for her autograph. This is an incredible play starring an incredible lady. I give it two humble thumbs up!! (3/19/97)
I am glad to join in with the others, by saying how much I loved "Once Upon A Mattress"! I went with my family to see it, in late December, and we all loved the show! It is funny and very entertaining! The cast is wonderful! Sarah Jessica Parker is so very talented! Her voice is great, and she plays a great Winnifred! This show has really given her a chance to show her various talents, especially her voice! Sarah Jessica is truly a superb actress and singer. From the beautiful sets and costumes to the fabulous cast, this show is one of the greatest I've seen! It is a show everyone should see - I strongly recommend it to all! I thank the entire cast and crew for a wonderful day of theatre! (2/14/97)
From Bradley O'Bryan Hawks:
My family and I were in the audience of the January 3 performance of "Once Upon a Mattress." I have skimmed through the other reviews on this page, and please allow me to prelude my review with the statement that this musical was the single most hilarious production I have ever seen . I found myself biting my knuckles, gripping the arm of my chair, and doing everything possible not to completely disturb those seated around me in the Broadhurst Theatre with my uncontrollable laughter. Never before have I been a fan of Sarah Jessica Parker, but upon my return home I plan on renting several of the movies in which she has acted.
The set, while somewhat simple, served its purpose well--that of creating an appropriate background for the fairy tale farce. Many of the chuckles in the audience were at the clever costumes, as well. The naively sarcastic wit of Winnifred (Sarah Jessica Parker) complemented the dry humor of Queen Aggravain (Mary Lou Rosato) beautifully. I found that this musical catered to the senses of humor of nearly every individual seated around me. Carol Burnett is a wonderful comedian...one of my first favorites...but I wouldn't trade seeing Sarah Jessica Parker in this role for anything. I think her actions, REACTIONS, abrupt facial expressions and voice inflections combined to create the best time I have ever had in a theatre.
As an aspiring actor (Vocal Performance Major at DePauw University), "Once Upon a Mattress" definitely served as a source of inspiration for me. The actors (in particular: Sarah Jessica Parker, Mary Lou Rosato, and the cellist, Laura Bontrager--for simple comical reasons) combined for a delightful evening that took me away for the night to a place I wish I could visit more often. For a hearty laugh at what I consider comical genius, I highly recommend seeing this wonderful musical! (1/5/97)
Just saw Sunday, December 29 performance of Once Upon a Mattress and was not disappointed!!! Sarah Jessica Parker was whimsical and just fun to watch . . .. especially the antics on the mattresses at the end of the show. She plays the role in a way that when thinking about or visualizing her role in the show it makes you smile and appreciate what she does with the character.
The entire cast was wonderful but extra note must go to the King and Queen. I felt their performances were truly outstanding.
It's a cute and pleasant story and is done in a very pleasant way. Three of us went . . . and three of us left with the lighthearted feeling of just having spent an enjoyable 2-1/2 hours. Thanks to all who put the show together. (12/31/96)
I saw Mattress on the last night of previews, so I'm sure the show was "frozen" by then . . . I wasn't much of a Parker fan before seeing this, so my first surprise was that Sara Jessica Parker CAN SING! I think she's prettier and shows her talent more through this medium rather than film. She manages to get it all in . . . the hi's & lows . . . (very Carol Burnett of her)! Her facial expressions help to carry across the intent of the words very well. The supporting cast was also very good, especially Mary Lou Rosato, who plays Queen Aggravain...perfect casting!
The costumes were whimsical and colorful, like a fairytale should be. And the sets, though not elaborate, gave the stage depth. It all worked very well as a whole!
The score was fun, and enjoyable, but unlike Big, I wasn't drawn into it and didn't have the urge to "tap my feet". (but then Big didn't last to long!)
One the whole, I'd say . . . GO SEE IT!
We saw the Sunday, Dec. 1 performance. Sarah Jessica Parker did a fine job. she was enthusiastic and amusing. all the other performers did well - notably David Aaron Baker as Dauntless, Heath Lamberts as Sextimus and Mary Lou Rosato as Aggravain. the set was the usual great work that John Lee Beatty has been spoiling theater goers with of late. the rest of the physical production was acceptable, as was the direction. Gutierrez has not worked the same magic here as he has with "Heiress" and "Delicate Balance." The biggest problem is the slimness of the material. parker, though good could not mine gold from this source. The only memorable song is "Shy" - the rest are eminently forgettable. while children may enjoy the show an adults will find it pleasant, it would be better suited to Off Broadway. At $75 it is highly skippable!!
From David Umbach:
I saw an early preview (the day after Thanksgiving) and so I hope that some of the following problems have been seen to, but here is my reaction from that preview. There are MAJOR problems with the production, in particular some terrible directorial choices, about which I'll elaborate, later, have no fear. But let me say that the biggest problem right now is that SJP is a fine actress, but NOT a great Clown (like Carol Burnett). I saw the play with CB in the early '60's, when I first came to NYC, and she had the audience rolling on the floor. Well, poor Sarah is working her buns off and getting very little laughter. It was especially obvious (and painful) in the climactic scene with Fred (short for Winifred) on top of the 20 mattresses and with little or no dialogue we see her having trouble sleeping. When Burnett did it, it was non-stop hilarious; with SJP the audience smiled and maybe chuckled -- it was embarrassing!
But now let's get to the director. Gerald Gutierrez is a terrific director. His revivals of "The Heiress" and "A Delicate Balance" were both Great! But it seems obvious that he's never done a musical before. He doesn't seem to know what to do with Fairy Tale Farce, which this is. Here's some examples: (I'll explain them as if you've never seen the show, just in case)
1) Winnifred's entrance and first song. She is so anxious to get to the palace to marry the prince, that she swims the moat and climbs the parapet, making an hilarious, soaking wet entrance. Then she sings "I've always been SHY" as she runs around to all the knights trying to find the prince. OK, so SJP is cute and coy, but not desperate! Then she sits, back to the audience, and watches the knights do a very clever dance number, WITHOUT HER, and then finishes the song. By this time we've forgotten that the song is about her, not the knights. It's disastrous. CB did the whole dance number accosting the knights and it was WONderful.
2) The Prime Minister's costume. Queen Aggravain is this non-stop talker who rules the roost with sheer aggression, and she has a Prime Minister who never gets a word in, even when she asks him for advice, she plows right in, interrupting him and answers her own question. It's a funny little part, that should complement the queen's character. In this production, the PM is dressed in an all black, floor length, monk's robe, with a cowl that completely covers his face the entire play. All his attempts at speaking are gone; he's like Death, hovering near her, but not involved at all. Even in her wonderful song, 'Sensitivity', which is supposed to be TO him and WITH him, he just hovers in the background and she sings to the audience. It Ruins the Song!!!
3) Missed lyrics. There are lots of examples of jokes in lyrics that were lost due to lack of correct interpretation. I'll give one. Sir Harry and his girl friend, who is pregnant, sing "In a little while, just a little while, you and I will be 1-2-3-4, in a little while we can see the smile of our son to be forever............" Now, the pun in the lyric is ".......you and I will be 1-2-3, for, in a little while...." But when a pause is put after the 4, you don't hear the joke! And the audience didn't.
4) Another wrong costume. Winnifred sings a great song called "Happily Ever After" which ends up with a big, stripper-like beat. In the original, CB changed into a new costume, that had big, long, medieval sleeves, so that when she did the last chorus, she swung them around like tassels on a stripper. SJP changes costumes to a nondescript new dress, with no dancing enhancements. Boring!
I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that if they haven't done some major reworking to this delightful play, in my opinion, the revival will BOMB! I would hate to see this happen.