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The Cary Players’ “Once Upon a Mattress” Will Be the First Musical at the New 390-Seat Cary Arts Center

Cary Players' "Once Upon a Mattress" cast includes Carly Jones (left) as the Nightingale and Kelsey Tucker Princess Winnifred (photo by Rob Byron of Piedmont Photo)

Cary Players' "Once Upon a Mattress" cast includes Carly Jones (left) as the Nightingale and Kelsey Tucker Princess Winnifred (photo by Rob Byron of Piedmont Photo)

The Cary Players will present the 1959 Off-Broadway and Broadway musical Once Upon a Mattress, adapted from the 1835 Danish fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea” by Hans Christian Andersen (1805-75), on Sept. 30, Oct. 1, and Oct. 6-8 in the new 390-seat Cary Arts Center (formerly Old Cary Elementary School). Actors Comedy Lab co-founder Nancy Rich will direct and choreograph this medieval musical, set in 1428, which features music by Mary Rodgers, lyrics by Marshall Barer, and a book by Barer, Jay Thompson, and Dean Fuller.

According to the Cary Players:

“Cary Players takes the stage at the new Cary Arts Center this week with the full-scale musical production of the Broadway hit, Once Upon a Mattress! Think you know the story of ‘The Princess and the Pea’? Well you’ll be in for some walloping surprises. Carried on a wave of upbeat songs and comic moments, this is a delightful tale of royal romances and comeuppances!

“‘This is our first show in the new Cary Arts Center,’ says producer Dan Martschenko. ‘In all aspects, from the casting, to the music, to the design elements, our goal has been to make this our absolute best show ever.’ To achieve this goal, Cary Players has enlisted the talent of expert director and choreographer Nancy Rich and musical direction from Coty Cockrell.

“The 24 talented performers are adorned in colorful, theatrical splendor by veteran costume designer David Serxner. There’s a festive Renaissance feel, with a fun dose of an upbeat 1960s color scheme. The set, designed in the spirit of a medieval castle by Jon Dietz, clever props by Carole Kelly, and lighting by Michael Lefler add to the to the magic.

Once Upon a Mattress marked Carol Burnett’s 1959 Broadway debut as the formidable but lovable Princess Winnifred. The show won a Tony for Best Musical Revival when Sarah Jessica Parker took on the lead.

“Cary Players is delighted to welcome Kelsey Tucker for her Cary Players debut in the role of ‘Fred.’

“‘Kelsey’s strong voice and mastery of the stage will wow audiences, says Nancy Rich. She adds, ‘The cast is full of strong voices playing memorable and hilarious characters in a very memorable show. Audiences of all ages will be delighted!'”

In addition to Kelsey Tucker as Princess Winnifred of Farfelot (a.k.a. Fred), the Cary Players cast for Once Upon a Mattress includes Derek Taylor as Prince Dauntless; Del Flack as King Sextimus; Alison Lawrence as Queen Agravain; Tony Hefner as The Wizard; Jon Karnofsky as Sir Harry, Knight of the Herald; Rebecca Leonard as Lady Larkin, a lady in waiting; Jaret Preston as The Jester; Jay Dolan as a traveling Minstrel; and Carly Jones as the Nightingale of Samarkand. The Lords and Ladies include Mark Anderson, Paul Brown, Sharon Galluzzo, Jon Hager, Grace Hamashima, Sam Hamashima, Amber Ivie Hayles, Lee King, Hannah Lee, Sarah Preston, Heather Shinpaugh, Mark Taranto, Shelly Twigg, and Ranele Winter.

The Cary Players’ creative team for Once Upon a Mattress includes guest director and choreographer Nancy Rich, producer Dan Martschenko, musical director Coty Cockrell, technical coordinator Bob Grannan, set designer Jon Dietz, lighting designer Michael Lefler, costume designer David Serxner, properties manager Carole Kelly, and stage manager Tony Landavazo.

The Cary Players presents ONCE UPON A MATTRESS at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, 3 p.m. Oct. 2, and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 6-8 at the Cary Arts Center, 101 Dry Ave., Cary, North Carolina 27511.

TICKETS: $18 ($16 students and seniors 55+), except $15 per ticket for groups of 20 or more.

BOX OFFICE: 919/469-4069 or





PARKING: Map.pdf.

NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh ( will audio describe the 7:30 p.m. Oct. 6th performance, which will also be sign-language interpreted.


The Musical: (Wikipedia) and (Internet Broadway Database).

“The Princess and the Pea” (fairy tale): (Wikipedia).

“The Princess and the Pea” (Jean Hersholt’s translation of “Prindsessen paa Ærten” by Hans Christian Andersen): (Hans Christian Andersen Center of the University of Southern Denmark).


Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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