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Once Upon A Mattress

4.1 out of 5 stars 197 customer reviews

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(Dec 20, 2005)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

An all-star cast brings the classic fairy tale THE PRINCESS AND THE PEA to life in this outrageously funny adaptation of the aclaimed Broadway musical. Queen Aggravain (Carol Burnett) sabotages the efforts of every young princess who hopes to marry her son, Prince Dauntless (Denis O'Hare) -- and no one else can settle down until he does! Honorable Sir Harry is determined to marry the lovely Lady Larken (Zooey Deschanel), so he sets off for faraway lands and returns with an unlikely candidate: Princess Winnifred from the swamps (Tracey Ullman). It's love at first sight for the Prince, so the Queen sets about planning her most difficult challenge yet. The palace is filled with merriment and mischief while everyone wonders, will Princess "Fred" pass the Queen's test?


The playful 2004 television version of Once Upon a Mattress brings everything full circle for Carol Burnett, who played klutzy Princess Winnifred, would-be fiancee of royal mama's boy Prince Dauntless, in the original 1959 Broadway cast production of the musical (as well as 1964 and 1972 television adaptations). In the new show, Burnett now essays the role of Dauntless's control-freak mom, Queen Aggravain, and is very funny in the part. An Oedipal nightmare, Aggravain is in no hurry to let the prince act his adult age, chasing off prospective wives (and queens-in-training) by putting them through unbeatable tests. Along comes Winnifred (Tracey Ullman, who manages the physically demanding role quite nicely), who turns the kingdom on its head with her goofy charm, sets Dauntless's heart aflame, and poses a serious threat to Aggravain's plans. The fun supporting cast in this tuneful take on "The Princess and the Pea" includes Tom Smothers as King Sextimus, the mute monarch who manages to impart wisdom, Zooey Deschanel as pregnant Lady Larken, who helps bring Winnifred to the castle, and Denis O'Hare (21 Grams) as the boyish Dauntless. --Tom Keogh

Special Features

Making Of ONCE UPON A MATTRESS -- Go behind the scenes with the director and cast to learn about the costumes, the characters, and the Broadway connection.|Between Takes -- You'll laugh out loud over the cast's hilarious antics on the set.|Rehearsal-To-Film Comparison -- A splitscreen presentation allows you to watch the elaborate musical numbers in rehearsal alongside footage from the final scenes.

Product Details

  • Actors: Carol Burnett, Tracey Ullman, Denis O'Hare, Tom Smothers, Matthew Morrison
  • Directors: Kathleen Marshall
  • Writers: Teleplay By Janet Brownell, Based On The Broadway Musical By Marshall Louis Ba
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Parental Guidance Suggested
  • Studio: Buena Vista Home Entertainment / Disney
  • DVD Release Date: December 20, 2005
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (197 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,017 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Once Upon A Mattress" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By G. Schneider VINE VOICE on June 15, 2006
Format: DVD
My first question is Why? Why bother going to such expense and effort to bring this old chestnut to the screen (TV, that is)? It was never a GREAT musical to begin with. But on the other hand, I'm glad they did, because, as a former musical director, I have conducted and played this show several times. The last time was over 30 years ago, so it was wonderful to see and hear it again after all this time.

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.
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Format: DVD
Just watched this on the TV special ahead of the release of the DVD and while the show was entertaining it had some short-comings principally in dropping numbers such as "Yesterday I Loved You" which was sung by the young lovers. In its place they sang a shortened version of "Normandy" which was not their number in the first place. "Very Soft Shoes" a minor show-stopper for the jester was missed and "Many Moons Ago" and "An Opening for a Princess" were reduced to bits. The score that was retained was edited but the songs still entertain. The cast was well chosen and Tracy Ullman was brave taking on a role forever identified as Carol Burnetts' who camped it up in high style as wicked Queen Aggravain for this special. Tracy was good and funny but her singing lacked the lung power of Carol Burnett especially the way Ms Burnett belted out "Happily Ever After" and "Shy" Denis O'Hare made an appropriate woe-be-gone Prince Dauntless and Matthew Morrison sang well as Sir Harry. If this show had been made for HBO maybe they could have retained the entire show instead of being constrained by the endless parade of commercials on network Tv. As is the show was still a lot of fun and the funniest line came when Lady Larkin tells Sir Harry she is expecting his baby and Sir Harry replies, "You can't be blamed you had a moment of weakness"
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Format: DVD
Overall, I thought this revamped version of Once Upon a Mattress was good, but not great.

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.
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Format: DVD
This production of Once Upon a Mattress makes you wonder why Tracey Ullman hasn't been on Broadway until now. She makes the show, in spite of the fact that the role is for a younger woman. For that matter, why aren't there more musical roles for women over forty? The only one I can think of is Mamma Mia. Judging by the popularity of Mamma Mia, it seems as if there is a considerable audience for such shows.

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.
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Format: DVD
This new version of "Once Upon a Mattress" is delightful in many ways, and somewhat disappointing in others. For those well-acquainted with the original stage version, you may find yourself missing some wonderful Rodgers-Barer songs (such as "An Opening for a Princess" and "Yesterday I Loved You").

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").
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