Once begins in a faraway kingdom long ago.

Once upon a mattress was produced by; Mary Rodgers whom
provided the music, Marshall Barer who provided the lyrics, and the book was by
Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller, and Marshall Barer. The musical was directed by George Abbott and
choreographed by Joe Layton. It is a
musical comedy and was written as an adaptation of the fairy tale ‘The Princess
and the Pea’.

“The story begins in a faraway kingdom long ago. Due to a
bad curse, King Sextimus is unable to speak. Meanwhile, his terror-of-a-wife,
Queen Aggravain, has taken over control of the kingdom. Most importantly, in an
attempt to keep Prince Dauntless single, she has decreed that only the princess
that can pass her test may marry her son. Further, no one else in the kingdom
may marry until Prince Dauntless does. Lady Larken and Sir Harry are extremely
disturbed by this fact since Lady Larken is now pregnant with Sir Harry’s baby.
Luckily, Sir Harry is able to find an amazing princess, Winnifred the
Woebegone. She instantly catches the attention of Prince Dauntless, and in the
end, is able to pass the Queen’s supposedly impassable sensitivity test. When
the Queen still tries to prevent the Prince Dauntless from marrying, he tells
her to ‘shut up’ which ends up breaking the curse on the king. Now able to
speak, King Sextimus regains his rightful position as leader of the kingdom,
and all is well.” http://stageagent.com/shows/musical/1390/once-upon-a-mattress
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Mary Rodgers was part of a line of musical theatre composers;
her father was Richard Rodgers, of Rodgers and Hammerstein and Adam Guettel who
was her son. She was an American composer of musical and an author of
children’s books. She went to college and majored in music as Wellesley
Colllege. ‘At the age of 16 she began writing music and her professional career began with writing songs for Little
Golden Records, which were albums for
children with three-minute songs’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Rodgers   Wikipedia 10th January 2018. Once
Upon a Mattress was her first full time length musical and it opened off
Broadway in May 1959 and moved to Broadway later in the year. This was her
first collaboration with Marshall Barer whom in fact she continued to write
songs for nearly a decade.

Marshall Barer began his
career as a lyricist and songwriter in the late 1940s whilst working as a
commercial artist/designer. First of all he started writing special material
for club artistes and then moved to writing pop songs and got hired by Golden
Records and wrote over 100 songs for. His most-heard song is the Mighty Mouse theme song. http://www.nytimes.com/1998/08/28/arts/marshall-barer-75-lyricist-for-mattress-and-mighty-mouse.html The New York Times by Stephen Holden 28th
August 1998. In 1951 he started working with Dean Fuller and worked on songs
for musical theatre beginning with Walk Tall in 1954. Once Upon a Mattress was
his greatest Broadway success as a lyricist and he also took part in being a
book writer alongside Jay Thompson and Dean Fuller. http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/obituary-marshall-barer-1174694.html Independent by Frederick
Nolan Friday 28
August 1998 23:02

Jay Thompson co-wrote the book for Once Upon
a Mattress and also played part as a director. He also wrote the book, music
and lyrics for the opera ‘The Bible Salesman’ and ‘The Oldest Trick in the
World’ which is a one act musical. His major work was composing words and music
for the song ‘Jimmy’ for the film Thoroughly Modern Millie sung by Julie
Andrews. He wrote for many other singers and also director many other
performances other than Once Upon a Mattress which included Sweet Charity, Born
Yesterday and Annie. http://www.rnh.com/bio/109/Thompson-Jay Rodgers and Hammerstein .

Dean Fuller was well known as
a writer for Once Upon A Mattress but he also wrote The Wizard of Baghadad and
The Wonderful World of Disney. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1714571/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm IMDb

Upon a Mattress opened off Broadway in May 11th 1959 at the off-Broadway Phoenix
Theatre where it then transferred to Broadway at
the Alvin Theatre and then to several other Broadway theatres, finally
playing at the St. James Theatre, Following
the shows initials run of 244 performances, there was a US tour, a production
in London’s West end, three televised productions and a Broadway revival. I
found some key dates in chronological order of the shows performances. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Once_Upon_a_Mattress Wikipedia 8th January 2018

1959- Off

1959- Broadway

1960- US Tour

1960- West End

1964- US

1972- US

1996- Broadway

2005- US television


Even before starting off-Broadway the casting had already
made a significant change, George Abbott’s the director wanted a new face to
play the starring role of Princess Winnifred. Carol Burnett had been recommended
to Marshall Barer and his collaborators and soon become their leading lady in
the show. The cast also featured Joseph Bova, Allen Case, Jack
Gilford and Matt Mattox. Jane White played the role of Queen
Aggravain. Jack Gilford played King Sextimus the Silent and was later
replaced by Will Lee, Gilford’s standby, prior to the show’s move to
Broadway. It is said that ‘The
reviews were great and Carol Burnett became a star.’ During the
Broadway performances the musical was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Musical as
well as a Best Leading Actress nomination
for Carol Burnett. When Burnett left the show, veteran T.V.
actress Ann
B. Davis took
over the leading role.

In 1960 rehearsals were called for a
seven-month US tour. Jack Sydow stepped from his role as King into the position
of Director. Dody Goodman played Winnifred at first,
then Imogene Coca picked up the
role. Carol Arthur understudied them both, and played the Nightingale of
Samarkand. Fritzi Burr played the Queen and Buster Keaton played the King. After Once Upon a Mattress closed, it was reported
that because of the many moves, ‘the show’s budget had been inflated $55,000
and that at the Winter Garden and St. James, the theatre owners took an unusual
share of the gross.’ http://www.playbill.com/article/9-amazing-things-you-never-knew-about-once-upon-a-mattress-com-377122 Playbill by Jennifer Tepper 3rd
Jan 2016.

the 20th September 1960 the show can to the West End at the Adelphi
Theatre where it ran for 38 performances. https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2014/jun/29/mary-rodgers
The Guardian By Michael Coveney 29th
June 2014. Jane
Connell starred as the main character and got good high comments. The cast
was so good EMI Records took the cast into the recording studio and
recorded a London Cast album. This was issued on a His Masters Voice. There was
a slight change in casting as it included Jane Connell as Princess Winnifred,
Robin Hunter as Prince Dauntless, Thelma Ruby as Queen Aggravain, Milo O’Shea
and King Sextimus. It was said that the Original London cast was well and truly
similar to the original Broadway cast.

The next recall was in June 1964 which was
when the first television adaptation was aired, on CBS. The production
was videotaped in black and white in
front of a live audience and featured Carol Burnett, Joseph Bova, Jack Gilford,
and Jane White from the original Broadway cast, as well as new
principals Bill Hayes as the Minstrel, Shani Wallis as Lady
Larken and Elliott Gould as the Jester. In
this adaptation they had to cut or shorten several songs and scenes due to the
running time of only being 90 minutes. You can watch the whole show on Youtube
following the links below whom was published by Beth Catanzaro on 27th
March 2014.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yB1NHb0cKFo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SKWk4QWqJg

A few years later in 1972 there was a second television
adaptation and this was broadcasted in the December on CBS again. This recording was directed by Ron Field and Dave
Powers. Since the last recorded colour had come to Television so this was
videotaped in colour and had original Broadway cast members still who were
Carol Burnett, Jack Gilford and Jane White. The additions and new castings were
Bernadette Peters as Lady Larken, Ken
Berry as Prince Dauntless, Ron
Husmann as Harry, and Wally Cox as The Jester. Due to the time restriction, the
Minstrel and wizard were cut from this adaptation and several songs were
eliminated as well, for this happening they provided a new prologue where Carol
Burnett sings ‘Many Moons Ago’ as a bedtime story. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Once_Upon_a_Mattress Wikipedia, 8th Jan 2018.

After nearly four decades and two televised productions, Once Upon A
Mattress made it back as a revival in Broadway starring Sarah Jessica Parker as Princess Winnifred, Lewis Cleale as Sir Harry and Jane Krakowski as Lady Larken. Its
opening night was on 19th December 1996 at the Broadhurst theatre
and ran for 188 performances. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Once_Upon_a_Mattress Wikipedia, 8th Jan 2018. This show was
advertised by Sarah Parker herself in Times Square, and when the show started
to struggle and get low on tickets she herself took to the TKTS booth with
flyers. http://www.playbill.com/article/9-amazing-things-you-never-knew-about-once-upon-a-mattress-com-377122 Playbill By Jennifer Tepper, Jan 3rd 2016.
I found several reviews on this performance; the first one is a mixed review “Carol Burnett was a large-mouthed, horsey princess.
Parker is far more ethereal and cannot use her appearance as an ongoing
physical joke. I felt she was effective in the part and was surrounded by some
very good voices. There are some directorial glitches, however. More
could be made of the humour in the lyrics. “In just a little while, you
and I will be 1,2,3,4, miscues the four/for pun. The part of Merton, Advisor to
the Queen, could have been played up. There is too much of the “grim
reaper” in both the silence and the costume of this character.” This was
wrote on 20/3/97. On the other hand SVIRZOFSKY had a positive comment on the
show “Just saw Sunday, December 29 performance of Once Upon a Mattress and
was not disappointed!!! Sarah Jessica Parker was whimsical and just fun to
watch … Especially the antics on the mattresses at the end of the show. She
plays the role in a way that when thinking about or visualizing her role in the
show it makes you smile and appreciate what she does with the character. The
entire cast was wonderful but extra note must go to the King and Queen. I felt
their performances were truly outstanding. (31/12/96). http://www.playbill.com/article/playbill-critics-circle-your-once-upon-a-mattress-reviews-com-329168
Playbill by Robery Viagas, 16th May 1997.

From Wikipedia the cast list
is shown below.

Jester – David Hibbard

Princess Winnifred – Sarah Jessica Parker

Prince Dauntless – David Aaron Baker

Queen Aggravain – Mary Lou Rosato

King Sextimus – Heath Lamberts

Lady Larken – Jane Krakowski

Sir Harry – Lewis Cleale

Minstrel – Lawrence Clayton

Master Merton – Tom Alan Robbins

Nightingale of Samarkand – Ann Brown

Wizard – Tom Alan Robbins

A bad review
was wrote about this revival performance “Alas, Sarah Jessica Parker was not an
apt choice for the heroine; although her musical theater experience dates back
to Annie, and her Winnifred was
Tony-nominated, she just doesn’t cut it. Setting aside the untouchable Burnett
template, Parker can only manage to serve up makeshift vocalism and indifferent
comic timing”. I personally think this critic is really harsh and doesn’t think
anyone can live up to the original standard of Carol Burnett so when each
person would bring their own adaptation to the show.

Cast album review.


Finally in 2005 there was the third and final television version, which aired on December 18, 2005, on ABC in the US as part of The Wonderful
World of Disney. Two days later
they released a DVD that starred Tracey Ullman as Princess Winnifred, Denis
O’Hare as Prince Dauntlesss, Carol Burnett as Queen Aggrevain and Matthew
Morrison as Sir Harry. The television version features a girl, who meets
Cinderella telling her mother the story of that story, but this was not shown
in the DVD, in order to do this they had to cut the minstrel part which cut a
lot of songs from that he was in except ‘Normandy’, which was changed to
describe Larken’s and Sir Harry’s Honeymoon. There were also additional plot
changes that Kathleen Marshall the director changed to suit the play
better.  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0426148/fullcredits IMDb.

The film had some good reviews; one audience review said “I was in this
play in high school so I picked it at the library. I thoroughly enjoyed
Disney’s version! The songs are so fun and the actors did a fabulous job,
especially Carol Burnett! The costumes were fantastic and the sets were
beautiful. What an adventure!” This review came from Dannielle Albert. https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/once_upon_a_mattress/

Another comment was by Leigh Ryan “So funny. You have to
remember that it’s supposed to be fluff, of sorts, and then you can really
enjoy it. I thought it was hilarious and would watch it again.”

Critic review Kevin Carr said “To be honest, this kind of
musical really isn’t my cup of tea. The songs are cute, but they really only
serve as filler for a fairly wispy story. The plot is told with tongue firmly
in cheek, and they really don’t take themselves too seriously.” http://www.7mpictures.com/inside/reviews/onceuponamattressdvd_review.htm


Recently in
2015 there has been another revival directed by the Transport Group at Abrons
Arts Centre. This was directed by Jack Cummings III and was first performed in
January 2016; his aim was to combine affection for old-fashioned musical comedy
with a downtown vibe and high hormonal spirit. 
Jackie Hoffman will star as Princess Winnifred alongside John Epperson
as Queen Aggravain. Other cast members as Jessica Fontana as Lady Larken, David
Greenspan as The King, Zak Resnick as Sir Harry, and Jason SweetTooth Williams
as Prince Dauntless. http://www.theatermania.com/off-broadway/news/once-upon-a-mattress-jackie-hoffman-casting_74594.html  Theatre Mania by Hayley
Levitt, 16th Oct, 2015. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/14/theater/review-in-once-upon-a-mattress-jackie-hoffman-as-paradoxical-charmer.html The New York Times, By Ben Brantley, 13th Dec 2015.

There have
been many excellent reviews on Jackie Hoffman playing Princess Winnifred, One
said “The chief pleasure of this small-budget but zestfully acted production is
to see a ham like Hoffman wax girlish, as well as deliver the slapstick—vocal
and physical—the role requires. Does Hoffman belt out the introductory song
“Shy” with the requisite unself-conscious brio? Of course. Does she make
finding a comfy spot in bed hilarious? Sure, and with ad-libs, no less. She
takes her place in a distinguished line of comedians—Carol Burnett, Imogene
Coca and Tracey Ullman—who have put their fiercely adorable stamp on the
role.”  https://www.timeout.com/newyork/theater/once-upon-a-mattress-1  Timeout by David Cote, November 3rd 2015


Once Upon a
Mattress has ranked consistently among the top 5 shows licensed from Rodgers
and Hammerstein theatricals, with over 300 productions annually in the US
alone.  From watching recording of the
show and doing my research I believe the 
most modern performance in 2015 with Jackie Hoffman had a huge success
as she really suited the character and provided comedy. I feel that the way
Disney used the story had a real impact to modern day and got children more
into theatre and it shows that the original play written by Mary Rodgers was
highly ranked too of been put on such a high display like Disney. On the other
hand I feel that the show wasn’t successful at certain times due to the story
not being well-known play which the Disney helped boost this reputation up.