A Brief History of a Hilarious Musical Production
Entertainment

A Brief History of a Hilarious Musical Production

Just in case you missed it this weekend at Caz...

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The musical comedy, Once Upon A Mattress, commonly known from the fairy tail The Princess and the Pea, was being put on by Cazenovia College at the Catherine Cummings Theater October 21st-30th. It was filled with many great laughs and the audience was sure to have a great time going back into a time where fairy tales really do come true. After seeing this fantastic production, I wanted to learn more about the original productions. For anyone else who is curious, here is some of the history of this successful musical comedy:

This is where the commonly known TV legend, Carol Burnett's, fame started as performing the role of Princess Winnifred. Once Upon a Mattress was first written as a shorter play at the Tamiment adult summer camp resort. The play was later expanded for the Broadway stage.The Broadway production was directed by George Abbott and choreographed by Joe Layton. The first original production opened on May 11, 1959, at the off-Broadway Phoenix Theater (now transformed into a multi-plex cinema, located on the Lower East Side of NYC).

The first television adaptation was aired on June 3, 1964, on CBS. The production was videotaped in black and white in front of a live audience and featured Burnett, Bova, Gilford, and White from the original Broadway cast, as well as new principals Bill Hayes as the Minstrel, Shani Wallis as Lady Larken and Elliott Gould (his first appearance on any screen) as the Jester. Due to the reduced running time of 90 minutes, several songs and scenes were either cut or shortened.

The second television adaptation was broadcast on December 12, 1972, on CBS. This production, videotaped in color, included original Broadway cast members Burnett, Gilford and White, and also featured Bernadette Peters as Lady Larken, Ken Berry as Prince Dauntless, Ron Husmann as Harry, and Wally Cox as The Jester. Again, several songs were eliminated and characters were combined or altered. Since the parts of the Minstrel and the Wizard were cut from this adaptation, a new prologue was written with Burnett singing "Many Moons Ago" as a bedtime story.

The third television version, which aired on December 18, 2005, on ABC in the US as part of The Wonderful World of Disney and was released on DVD two days later, starred Carol Burnett as Queen Aggravain, Denis O'Hare as Prince Dauntless, Tom Smothers as King Sextimus, Tracey Ullman as Princess Winnifred, Zooey Deschanel as Lady Larken, and Matthew Morrison as Sir Harry. It was directed by Kathleen Marshall and executive produced by Burnett & Martin Tudor.The beginning portion, cut from the DVD release, features a girl, who meets Cinderella, telling her mother the story of that story. The Minstrel was cut from this version, negating and also cutting most of the songs featuring the Minstrel except "Normandy," which was changed to describe Larken's and Sir Harry's honeymoon. There were also additional plot changes. Instead of the Minstrel and Jester finding out the test from the Wizard, the King hides in a suit of armor and overhears the Queen and the Wizard, and when the Jester, Larken and Harry all collaborate to find out, the King pops out of the suit of armor.

Learning the history of this musical made me appreciate this production so much more, and being able to see the different adaptations of it truly changes how you view the play as a whole. If you saw the musical this weekend, definitely check out some of the other adaptations and see which one you liked best!

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