Moffat County High School‘s ‘Once Upon a Mattress’ opens Thursday
An eight-foot pile of bedding at center stage — cozy, colorful and an ideal bedtime story for all ages — serves as a nice analogy for the latest Moffat County High School drama program.
The fall musical “Once Upon a Mattress” will premiere this week at MCHS, bringing a fairy tale unlike any other to local audiences.
The show starts at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, Friday, Dec. 2, and Saturday, Dec. 3, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday. Tickets are $7 apiece.
A long time ago
The longtime Broadway favorite is a humorous take on “The Princess and the Pea,” highlighting a medieval kingdom where marriage is forbidden until Prince Dauntless, played by Jayden Wilson, finds a bride.
The trouble is a meddling mother, Queen Aggravain played by MCHS junior Cynae Montoya, keeps all prospective princesses from finding love.
“She basically wants to be the ruler forever,” Montoya said. “I’ve never played an evil role before, so that’s kind of fun. I’m not a mean person at all. I’m a really kind person in real life, so it’s kind of hard to be mean and not seem like I am.”
The queen meets her match with the unexpected arrival of Winnifred the Woebegone, played by Megan Neton, a princess whose many talents lead the royals to find increasingly unorthodox ways to test her worthiness. Donning a beard, senior Arianna Crain portrays King Sextimus the Silent, the victim of a magical curse that keeps him from talking, effectively giving his wife more power.
“It’s hard to do a mute character, so it’s fun just for that challenge,” Crain said. “A lot of sign language and big motions.”
Junior Alana McIntyre portrays the court jester, who provides most of the king’s interpretation, with the two forming a dynamic onstage along with a visiting minstrel played by Ronin Miller.
McIntyre said she enjoys making people laugh, which made the part of jester a nice fit for her, although the start of rehearsals were a bit overwhelming, namely the music.
“I can do everything else, but when it gets to singing, I just freeze,” she said. “But I think I’ve got it now.”
The sound of music
“Once Upon a Mattress” marks the first Moffat County High School musical since 2019 that will have orchestral accompaniment. Nearly 20 musicians, students and adults, will be playing under the direction of band director Lia Arnold.
Director Grace Alberico said she is pleased to have the full aesthetic after using recorded music during last year’s “Beauty and the Beast.”
“Last year we were worried about COVID, and it was Miss Arnold’s first year, so we wanted to ease back into the musicals with the recorded tracks. Now we’re back full,” Alberico said. “It challenges the singers in a different way to follow an orchestra rather than listening to a pre-recorded track, so it’s really helped improved their skills.”
Senior Paityn Cox has worked with the stage crew for previous shows, though for this production she’ll be playing the flute in the small orchestra pit.
“A lot of times I think I need my space, but you’ve gotta work with what you’ve got,” she said. “I’m glad I’m not running around backstage this time.”
Senior Tristan Malvitz will play the euphonium, a brass instrument that is often misidentified.
“Everyone calls it a mini-tuba,” he laughed.
The sound the euphonium produces contrasts the higher-pitched instruments.
“There’s nobody else who really supports the bass section besides timpani and piano, and the majority of the time the piano is following the lead of the flute or trumpet,” he said.
Senior Garrett Mercer will be working a percussive set that includes snare drum, bass drum, cymbals, and triangle. He expects that he and the other musicians in the pit will provide a richer sound.
“I think it gives it a more realistic experience,” Mercer said. “It’s not electronic. It’s actually coming from the play itself, not just from behind you.”
Challenges and rewards
Like Winnifred, the cast and crew of the show have faced many tests since starting rehearsals.
“I noticed some challenges with the four-day week because it made our start time after school so much later,” Alberico said. “They’re all a lot more tired, and it felt a little rushed. I didn’t realize it would affect us as much as it did.”
Losing many students who graduated this spring also took its toll.
“Last year’s seniors were a lot more experienced than everyone is in this show,” Montoya said. “They were kind of our rocks, and we had to rebuild that strength.”
On the plus side, an abundance of younger students have bolstered the ranks.
“I think we have about 20 people that this is their first-ever show, so it’s really cool to have that mix of veterans like Megan and the newbies,” Alberico said.
She noted that while Wilson is a senior in his first show, he has years of choral experience.
Freshman Marie Roberts, who plays Lady Larken, has been a choir student under Alberico throughout middle school, also acting last year as an eighth-grader. However, the more prominent part in this show has been challenging.
“I was so not used to it. I had no stage fright last time, but I only had one solo,” she said. “Now, I have tons of lines to remember and my own songs to sing, and it’s kind of scary. The more confidence you have in yourself, the better you’re going to do.”
In the final few nights of preparation before the show opens, cast and crew have reflected on the connections they’ve formed, even when they’ve driven each other crazy.
“I really enjoy the family that you make. It’s a group project where everyone puts in their own effort, and it’s really fun to see how the younger kids have grown with you,” Crain said.
Junior Austin Seewald, who plays Sir Harry, concurred.
“We started the year with a bunch of new people, and so many of them have grown so much and are becoming great actors,” he said.
Roberts credited Alberico for being the driving force of the production.
“She really brings us all together. We’re all great on our own, but she helps us know what to work on and polishes us up so that we shine,” Roberts said. “She’s really a great person, she’s amazing. All the people here are amazing.”
Director — Grace Alberico
Pit Director — Lia Arnold
Director’s Assistant — Abbigail Stehle
Stage Manager — Kimber Eike
Set Design — Erin McLeod
Queen Aggravain — Cynae Montoya
Prince Dauntless— Jayden Wilson
Princess Winnifred — Megan Neton
Sir Harry— Austin Seewald
Lady Larken — Marie Roberts
The King — Arianna Crain
Jester — Alana McIntyre
Wizard — Mary Ann Booker
Minstrel — Ronin Miller
Lady Lucille — Raven Doolin
Lady Rowena — Guadalupe Lopez
Lady Merrill — Cheyenne Grivy
Lady Mabelle — Eowyn Phelps
Lady H — Natalie Womble
Princess Number 12 — Grace Elizondo
Sir Studley — Kambree Satterwhite
Sir Luce — Taya Told
Knights/Ladies in Waiting — Jessica Whitecotton, Kiely Tomison, Isabella Guerra
Tabbi Mogus (Crew Leader), Fantisa Jowell, Jory Herod, BeccaAnn Wagoner, Kaiden Higgins, Treyton Nottingham, Trevor Odell, Miken Madrid
Hailey Collins, Reagan Hafey, Forrest Siminoe, Athan Smith, Celeste Valenzuela
Jeff Womble, George Herod, Tim Womble, Lyndi Daugherty, Dan Daugherty
Deana Armstrong — Violin
Jim Simpson — Violin/Viola
Ellianna Crain — Flute
Vicky Deporto — Flute
Paityn Cox — Flute
Rosy Cortes — Flute
Shane Del Toro — Clarinet
Hannah Kilpatrick — Clarinet
Allison Nees — Clarinet
Carrie Brown — Tenor Saxophone
Caleb Crumpton — Trumpet
Katie Grobe — Trumpet
Eric Warner — French Horn
Tristan Malvitz — Euphonium
Garrett Mercer — Drum Set
Gabby Riley — Percussion
Isaack Reyes — Percussion
Lief Albaugh — Piano
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