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Rollicking good fun in the roaring 20s
Community is very much at the heart of this splendid musical offering which is being performed at the Lichfield Garrick theatre. Once Upon A Mattress, which is a panto-style take on Hans Christian Andersen's famous fairy-tale, The Princess and the Pea, has been entirely cast from local people drawn from this part of Staffordshire. In fact this production, which is being staged at the Garrick from Monday 30 July until Saturday 4 August, is the third Community Musical specially created by the Lichfield theatre.
Rebecca Mills as Princess Winnifred ends up in the moat. Credit Pamela Raith Photography
The original theatre production, which starred comedienne Carol Burnett, opened on Broadway in 1959 and later provided a vehicle for Sex In The City's Sarah Jessica Parker in the 1996 Broadway revival. In Lichfield Garrick's excellent show, which is set in the roaring 20s, the lead role of Princess Winnifred is played by the lesser-known but also talented Rebecca Mills. Apparently plucked from the ranks of the Garrick's own community choir, Rebecca is a delight as the unladylike Princess Winnifred, or Fred as she prefers to be called, who lives in the swamps of the far-off Mid-Lands.
Adam Robinson as Dauntless with Rebecca Mills as Winnifred. Credit Pamela Raith Photography
She arrives at the royal court after 12 princesses have already failed the virtually impossible tests set by the overbearing Queen Aggravain to prove they are worthy enough to marry her only son, Prince Dauntless. Learning of Fred's 'rough edges' the queen, equally well played by Julie Roche in her first lead role, sets her the challenge of trying to detect a tiny pea placed under 20 soft mattresses as she sleeps. Once Upon A Mattress, well directed by Birmingham-based Emily Summers in her first Lichfield Garrick production, and with an excellent contribution from musical director Angharad Sanders, has a wonderful feel-good atmosphere throughout.
The cast of Once Upon A Mattress. Credit Pamela Raith Photography
The cast, a quarter of whom appeared in the Garrick's first community musical, The Hired Man, in 2016, spans a myriad of ages from as young as eight or nine upwards. But they all perform equally well, among them Ivor Williams as King Sextimus The Silent, Alfie Kentesber as The Jester, and Alexander Nicholls as The Minstrel, who combine to perform an unusual 'duet' with the king who has been left mute by a curse. There are also fine contributions from Adam Robinson as Dauntless, and Elliot Scott-Lolley and Lauren Sutherland as the love-struck Sir Harry and Lady Larkin, while a special mention is due to Zephan Rowe and Nathan Wallace as the young pages.
The queen (Julie Roche) tries to prevent her son (Adam Robinson) from marrying. Credit Pamela Raith Photography