‘Princess’ gets new dress

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Clarke Reader
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Some fairy tales are so popular and well known, that most audiences think they know the whole story.

That, however, is not always the case.

The classic Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea” gets a hilarious retelling in “Once Upon A Mattress,” playing at the Lakewood Cultural Center through Feb. 24.

The musical is produced by the Lakewood Cultural Center, 470 S. Allison Parkway, and the Performance Now Theatre Company.

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

“The show is a great send up of the classic story, and is told in a very farcical way,” said the show’s director, Britta Laree. “It’s really a loving retelling of the story, but everything you think you know about the story is going to be turned on its head.”

Laree compares the show to a mix of “Shrek,” “Enchanted” and “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” in the sense that younger audience members will get a lot of the fairy tale references and jokes, but there is some more advanced humor that adults will understand.

The show begins with a minstrel telling the traditional version of “The Princess and the Pea,” only to finish the story and tell the audience that he was actually there, and the story doesn’t tell what really happened.

In the kingdom where the prince Dauntless lives, no one can get married until he is, however his mother, Queen Aggravain, doesn’t seem to think anyone is good enough for her son.

Dauntless needs to find a princess soon, not only because of the pressure from his parents, but because of the attention the entire kingdom is placing on his finding a wife.

The queen has a test that any princess must pass before she can wed her son, and that’s where the “Princess and the Pea” comes in.

Ken Goodwin, executive producer with Performance Now, said there are around 30 people in the cast who bring surprising and funny touches to the story, as well as the music and dancing. He also said the costumes, designed by Cindy Franke, are outrageous and hilarious.

This is Laree’s directorial debut with Performance Now, though she has been an actor and assistant director with the company for several years.

“There’s a real family feel to the team — everyone is very talented and giving,” she said.

Rehearsals started in November, but with the all the time off because of the holidays, she said the entire cast wasn’t in the room together until early January, which didn’t give a lot of time to prepare.

This is the 11th season that Performance Now has been partners with the Cultural Center, and Goodwin said the partnership has been a great one for each group.

Laree said that fans of music and new takes on old stories will find a lot to like in “Once Upon A Mattress.”

“If you like musical comedy, this show is not going to disappoint,” she said. “If someone knows the story, they’ll really enjoy the retelling, because we really bring some creative and modern twists to it.”

For tickets and more information, call 303-987-7845 or visit www.lakewood.org/cultural

center.