Once Upon A Mattress
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There have been complaints that the songs aren't memorable. (One reviewed didn't like them so he/she fast-forwarded through them. That's a wonderful way to get to know a song!) The songs are indeed memorable, and quite tuneful. Mary Rodgers, Richard's daughter, did a wonderful job...better, in fact, than her father was doing about that time. And the lyrics are very clever. "Sensitivity" in 5/4 time is a tour-de-force of writing and performing. I was sorry they cut "Very Soft Shoes," the jester's song. And "An Opening for a Princess." I missed that, too.
The casting was either good or inspired...mostly. Matthew Morrison and Zooey Deschanel as the young lovers are rather wimpy, to the point of who care if they get married or split or what. But just about everyone else was magnificent. The jester (Michael Boatman) was too good to have had "Very Soft Shoes" taken from him. Tom Smothers, a real treat, was wonderful to watch. His pantomime and facial expressions were delightful. Denis O'Hare grew on me. Not being a TV freak, I wasn't familiar with him. Tracey Ullman was fine, if a little long in the tooth for the part. (Then again, one of the productions of the show I did starred Imogene Coca in the part, and she was in her 60s then!) As for Carol Burnett, she was fantastic, totally over the top! She graduated from the princess to the queen perfectly.Read more ›
Tracey Ullman was wonderful and fantastically funny as Winnifred as was Carol Burnett as Aggravain.
What bothered me was the rewriting of a great show. It was obvious the show was cut to pieces for two reasons: To give Carol Burnett a larger role and to make sure the show ran within a two hour time slot. This took many good songs out, shifted the focus of the show to only Aggravain and Winnifred and also took out a lot of charm with it. Gone is the role of the Minstrel and the fun trio of the Jester, Minstrel and King Sextimus. Gone are great songs "Many Moons Ago", "Opening for a Princess", "Yesterday I Loved You", "Very Soft Shoes" and a complete "Normandy".
While I can understand minor rewrites and cuts for TV version, I think this show was cut to the point that it suffered greatly from the original version.
The DVD version of Once Upon a Mattress is fun to watch, but I can't help thinking that I might have been disappointed if I'd paid Broadway prices for a ticket. The only memorable number in the show was Ullman's opening tune "I'm Shy." On the other hand, the DVD includes a few extra features that you may enjoy. There's a short about the 1959 production that starred Carol Burnett as Princess Winifred, as well as two split-screen musical numbers comparing the rehearsals with the full-dress version.
However, given the time constraints of commercial network television (where this version was originally presented), one can understand some of the decisions.
Also in this version, more weight is given to the role of the Queen (Carol Burnett) vs. Princess Winnifred (Tracey Ullman). That's understandable, however, given Burnett's star power and enduring talent. Burnett is stellar in her role, and while Ullman gets the job done with great comic timing, she lacks that awkward, youthfully exuberant, peel-the-paint-off-the-wall singing that the role needs, and Burnett so wonderfully did in the original version (and would become a trademark style for her). Still, given the casting choices these days for someone else in the role, Ullman was probably the best pick.
Though "Mattress" isn't quite in the pantheon of truly great American Broadway musicals such as "South Pacific" or "My Fair Lady" (Richard Rodgers's daughter, Mary, wrote the tuneful, memorable score), it's not easy to write "great" content around "The Princess and the Pea." Still, for a musical that got its start as a fun romp in the Pocono Mountains, any musical writer worth their salt would die happy to have a hit such as this on their resume (and bank account).
Bottom line: This new version of "Mattress" is wonderfully entertaining and stands up nicely on its own merits. It's encouraging that television is doing this sort of thing again (i.e., "Annie", "The Music Man", "South Pacific", "Cinderella").
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great Service, arrived quick----perfect condition---great movie great starts and great musucak...........Published 2 months ago by Wild West
One of the great musicals. I was fortunate to see the original tv version, with Carol Burnett as the princess, and it was great. Now she is the queen, and it is also fine! Read morePublished 4 months ago by Amazon Customer