A THEATREGOER'S NOTEBOOK -- February 1997 Language plays a huge part in creating a character onstage. In Heath Lamberts's case, make that body language. As King Sextimus in Once Upon a Mattress, Lamberts is mute for most of the show (including his own big musical number, "The Minstrel, The Jester and I"), but his rapid-fire pantomime and sweetly wacky expressions speak volumes.
"It's a tremendous challenge," Lamberts says of playing a principal role on Broadway without talking or singing, "but in my head, it's no different than any other play I've done. I've always been a very physical performer."
The King spends considerable time ogling pretty maidens, avoiding his overbearing wife, Queen Aggravain, and acting out the facts of life for his clueless son, Prince Dauntless. "The trick was coming up with gestures that aren't too elaborate," Lamberts explains. "It needs to be speedy because father and son have been 'talking' to each other this way for years."
No stranger to family entertainment on Broadway, Lamberts originated the role of Cogsworth the Clock in Beauty and the Beast after a successful stage career in his native Canada. "I'm still waiting for my big break here," he says, "but I'm starting to feel at home."
-- By Kathy Henderson