BY EMILY TENCER
For the fall musical, the theatre department took a twist on the traditional “Princess and the Pea” and presented “Once Upon a Mattress” Friday, Saturday and Sunday after a Thursday sneak peek for Papillion Junior High students.
In this version of the classic tale, the evil Queen Aggravain, played by senior Torisa Walker, is known to test prospective princess brides for her son’s hand in marriage. When none of the princesses pass the test, Prince Dauntless, played by senior Aaron Lawrence, begins to doubt he will ever get married.
“Dauntless was a very fun role to play. I was able to get into character by acting like a complete child,” Lawrence said. “It wasn’t always the easiest thing to do, but once I got the hang of it, it was one of the most fun things I’ve ever acted in.”
Last year for the first time, the theatre department competed against many Nebraska high school musicals for the Nebraska High School Theatre Awards. “Singing in the Rain” won best musical, best actor, best supporting actor and best supporting actress. The cast of “Once Upon a Mattress” applied to compete this year. Adjudicators attended every performance to judge the musical.
“Performing for the adjudicators did not make me nervous,” Lawrence said. “On the contrary, it kept me on my toes and reminded me to always be spot on and always in character. By the middle of the musical, I forgot about them completely, and they just became a part of the rest of the audience.”
A change took place for the theatre department when Monika Peters, the choral teacher at the junior high, stepped up as the music director.
“Mrs. Peters made the environment a happier place and could manage to be the sweetest person alive, while still getting all the work that needed to be done, done,” said senior Jesse Vrable, who played a knight. “Her teaching methods were fun, and she knew just how to make the perfect sound, not only with the vocalists but the pit as well.”
Among the many humorous scenes in the show, both Lawrence and Vrable agreed that the “Man to Man” song was their favorite – a duet between Dauntless and King Sextimus, played by senior Aaron Homme.
“The scene is one of the best parts of the musical, because it shows a grown man getting the birds-and-the-bees talk from his father, who cannot speak. It’s a perfect setup for a comedic scene,” Lawrence said.
Vrable, one of only two seniors to have been in every musical all four years, saw “Once Upon a Mattress” as a great way to end his high school theatre run.
“Although this is my last musical I will probably ever be in, I am actually pretty happy about it, mostly because it was a fantastic way to spend my senior year and a truly great experience … I enjoyed it while it lasted,” Vrable said.
Senior Cody Redford was in the audience and said he was very proud of his fellow students.
“I think our school always takes a challenge, and performs to a high level of excellence,” Redford said. “This year, as always, I was awed by the teamwork and amount of talent presented by our theatre department. The pit did an amazing job as well.”
“I really hope the audience enjoyed it,” Lawrence added, “because I left everything on that stage that I could. I had fun performing it, so my thought is that they had just as much fun watching.”
For more pictures and information about the production of “Once Upon a Mattress,” pick up the upcoming issue of Titan Legacy on Nov. 25.