Thomas Quigley, Fine Arts chairman at Pinkerton Academy and director of the Pinkerton Players, stopped an ensemble in midsong. “You need to know all the nuances,” he told his chorus members, demonstrating a right over left hand motion. “Some of you are up here, some of you are down there. That’s not quality. Quality is precision.”
So is comic timing, and “Once Upon a Mattress,” the Pinkerton Players’ spring offering, has plenty. It mixes fairy tale, slapstick and humable tunes intended to enchant audiences. It opens March 21 in the school’s Stockbridge Theatre.
The play was written by composer Richard Rodgers’ daughter, Mary Rodgers, in 1959, Quigley said. It’s a musical retelling of the fairy tale “The Princess And The Pea.” As he walked between practice venues, Quigley sketched the plot. The Queen doesn’t want her son to marry, and because her husband is mute through a curse, he has no say in the matter. “He can’t speak until ‘the mouse devours the hawk,’” Quigley said with a grin. This leaves the Queen in charge, and she devises impossible tests for the girls to fail.
But one girl, Winnifred, comes on the scene. She is tomboyish and free spirited, and enchants everyone in the kingdom, including the prince. The Queen’s trial for Winnifred is to place a pea under 20 mattresses, and if she feels the pea, she’s sensitive enough to be the Prince’s bride. The other characters, who want Winnifred as their future queen, get together to make it happen.
Quigley has never produced “Mattress” before, and he decided to do it because it matches the talents and energy of his current group of Players, he said. Jesse Harte, a senior from Chester, won the role of Winnifred. She’s been acting since she was 4 and started dance classes at 2, Harte said. Other roles at Pinkerton have included Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” and Chava, one of the three marriageable daughters, in “Fiddler On the Roof.”
Harte likes playing Winnifred for the same reason the villagers love her. “She’s a real girl, with an attitude and a little bit of ‘sass,’” she said. “She is ‘out there.’” Matthew McGinnis, a junior from Derry, plays her prince. He’s having fun with the role, he said, noting that the Prince is “kind of clueless. He’s so innocent he doesn’t really catch on to what’s going on.”
The play is a fun show for the cast and also for the audience, McGinnis said. Colin Coviello, a junior from Derry, plays the arrogant Sir Harry. Last fall he played the good-natured George in “Our Town,” so this is a change but fun for him, he said.
Christopher Komisarek, a sophomore from Chester, is the Minstrel. “My character is fun, loves to tell stories, he’s free wheeling,” Komisarek said. “He has some great lines with his friend the Jester.” And Mariah Larocque, a Derry junior, plays the scheming Queen. It’s challenging to play “evil” and “maniacal,” but fun for Larocque, who said, “I’m finding out different things about myself.”
The play will be presented Thursday, March 21; Friday, March 22; and Saturday, March 23, all at 7 p.m., and Sunday, March 24, at 2 p.m. For more information, call 437-5210 or visit www.stockbridgetheatre.com.