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Cary Players Give the Royal Treatment to the Merry Medieval Musical “Once Upon a Mattress”

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 give the royal treatment to Broadway’s Once Upon a Mattress (1959), that marvelous medieval musical, with music by Mary Rodgers, lyrics by Marshall Barber, and a book by Barber, Jay Thompson, and Dean Fuller, based on Hans Christian Andersen’s 19th century story “The Princess and the Pea.” Guest director and choreographer Nancy Rich stages this fractured fairy tale with warmth and wit and a wink in a pixilated performance that will turn many a frown upside-down, even in these economically troubled times.

Heading the energetic ensemble of this surprisingly strong community-theater production are Kelsey Tucker as Princess Winnifred the Woebegone, an irrepressible lass who impetuously swims the castle moat to impress Prince Dauntless the Drab (Derek Taylor), who is conducting a sort a 15th century version of “Who Wants to Marry a Prince?” — and have King Sextimus the Silent (Del Flack) and the aptly named Queen Aggravain (Alison Lawrence) as her royal in-laws. Tucker is delightful as “Fred,” Taylor is amusing as Dauntless, and Flack is a treat as Sextimus. But it is Lawrence as Aggravain who gets the biggest laughs.

Also entertaining are Triangle comic actor supreme Tony Hefner as The Wizard, Jon Karnofsky and Rebecca Leonard as the foot-dragging Sir Harry and the eager-to-wed Lady Larkin, and Jaret Preston and Jay Dolan as The Jester and a traveling Minstrel. Plus, Carly Jones adds a cute cameo as the operatic Nightingale of Samarkand.

The Cary Players’ buoyant presentation of Once Upon a Mattress also features jaunty musical direction from Coty Cockrell and a merry medieval set by Jon Dietz. The first musical to grace the stage of the new 390-seat Cary Arts Center (formerly Old Cary Elementary School) is a winner.

SECOND OPINION: Oct. 5th Durham, NC Independent Weekly review by Zach Smith (who awarded the show 3 of 5 stars):; and Oct. 4th Raleigh, NC CVNC (Classical Voice of North Carolina) review by Scott Ross: (Note: To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the Sept. 30th Triangle Theater Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click

The Cary Players presents ONCE UPON A MATTRESS at 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. OTHER LINKS:

The Musical: (Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization), (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 review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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