Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

'Once Upon a Mattress' comes to Ruth Eckerd


She can swim a castle moat, pump iron and gulp wine from a goblet, but is Winnifred a "real" princess?

Only her mattress knows for sure.

That's the foundation for Once Upon a Mattress, a musical comedy presented by City Players premiering tonight and running through Sunday at Ruth Eckerd Hall.

The musical, based on Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale The Princess and the Pea, opened in 1959 with Carol Burnett playing the part of the irrepressible Princess Winnifred, or Fred, as friends call her.

In this version, the plucky part is played by Alexandra Gonzalez, a Tampa native and theater student at Roosevelt University in Chicago.

During the dress rehearsal, the mezzo-soprano scaled a 15-foot ladder running up the side of "20 soft, downy mattresses," plopped down and rolled around, dangling legs and arms.

"I don't need a harness. I'm fine," she was overheard saying later.

Gonzales, 19, said she has no fear of heights. In fact, being up there fulfills an ambition she has long had as a triplet.

"We had bunks, and I always wanted to be on the top," she said, displaying the same confidence and spunk as the character she plays.

Of more concern to her was that she do justice to the highly comedic role she plays.

"I was worried about doing comedy at first, but this musical has made me learn to trust my instincts," she said.

The cast is directed by Claud Smith, 48. He's a freelance creative consultant from Orlando who has masterminded theatrical productions for Disney, Busch Gardens and other theme parks. He was brought in by Betty Jane Pucci, who has been directing the group for decades.

"We had a chance to get this really great guy who's usually really busy," she said.

Smith designed the set to look like a pop-up storybook done in old-style pen and ink.

"The performers, on the other hand, are very colorful. It makes the story come alive," he said.

About half of the cast is new to City Players this year, he said. They've been rehearsing for six weeks and "are coming along very well," he said. "Because I travel a lot, it's taught me how to put together a show very quickly."

The classic-storybook look is enhanced by the skills of costume designer Marilyn Deighton of Youngstown, N.Y. She is an assistant professor at Niagara University, where she teaches costume technology.

She has previously worked in the area for various dinner and community theaters.

Deighton placed the 49 actors, ages 17 to 70-plus, in jewel tones, accented with gold and sparkles.

When Princess Winnifred emerges from the moat, she's supposed to look damp, so Deighton created a costume using sheer, multicolored tie-dyed fabric with tiny sequins "to look like water droplets from a distance."

Many of the men's costumes have been borrowed from Niagara University. One outfit came from a Broadway production.

About 25 were built from scratch, she said.

"I brought most of my shop down with me," she said.

For the uninitiated, Once Upon a Mattress tells the tale of mean Queen Aggravain, who has ruled that no one in the kingdom can marry until her son is wed.

The meddling mom really wants him by her side, so she keeps sabotaging the prospective brides.

Princess Winnifred, the 13th candidate for the prince's hand, arrives from the swamplands, refreshingly unrefined — and wet.

The queen devises a sensitivity test — a pea under 20 downy mattresses — to see if she can fall asleep.

"Any genuine princess would feel it," said the queen, played by Kate Gaudet.

But the test is not quite as foolproof as she imagines.

Have a Diversions idea? Reach Terri Bryce Reeves at

if you go

'Once Upon a Mattress'

What: A musical comedy based on the fairy tale The Princess and the Pea.

When: 8 p.m. today and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 N McMullen Booth Road, Clearwater.

Tickets: $23; free parking.

Special note: Two interpreters for the deaf will be on the side signing at each performance.

For information: Visit or call (727) 791-7400.

'Once Upon a Mattress' comes to Ruth Eckerd 07/16/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 16, 2009 4:12pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trigaux: Amid a record turnout, regional technology group spotlights successes, desire to do more


    ST. PETERSBURG — They came. They saw. They celebrated Tampa Bay's tech momentum.

    A record turnout event by the Tampa Bay Technology Forum, held May 24 at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, featured a panel of area tech executives talking about the challenges encountered during their respective mergers and acquisitions. Show, from left to right, are: Gerard Purcell, senior vice president of global IT integration at Tech Data Corp.; John Kuemmel, chief information officer at Triad Retail Media, and Chris Cate, chief operating officer at Valpak. [Robert Trigaux, Times]
  2. Take 2: Some fear Tampa Bay Next transportation plan is TBX redux


    TAMPA — For many, Wednesday's regional transportation meeting was a dose of deja vu.

    The Florida Department of Transportation on Monday announced that it was renaming its controversial Tampa Bay Express plan, also known as TBX. The plan will now be known as Tampa Bay Next, or TBN. But the plan remains the same: spend $60 billion to add 90 miles of toll roads to bay area interstates that are currently free of tolls. [Florida Department of Transportation]
  3. Hailed as 'pioneers,' students from St. Petersburg High's first IB class return 30 years later


    ST. PETERSBURG — The students came from all over Pinellas County, some enduring hot bus rides to a school far from home. At first, they barely knew what to call themselves. All they knew was that they were in for a challenge.

    Class of 1987 alumni Devin Brown, from left, and D.J. Wagner, world history teacher Samuel Davis and 1987 graduate Milford Chavous chat at their table.
  4. Flower boxes on Fort Harrison in Clearwater to go, traffic pattern to stay


    I travel Fort Harrison Avenue in Clearwater often and I've noticed that the travel lanes have been rerouted to allow for what looks like flower boxes that have been painted by children. There are also a few spaces that push the travel lane to the center that have no boxes. Is this a permanent travel lane now? It …

  5. Palm Harbor boat dealer facing litany of complaints of bad deals


    PALM HARBOR — With an aging father sick in the hospital and a son just graduating high school, Andrew Kashella, in between jobs, knew what he had to do.

    A sign on a front window of Gulf Coast Boat Sales, 37517 Us Highway 19 N, in Palm Harbor, notifies people they are under restructuring  The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office has received 20 complaints against Gulf Coast Boat Sales in Palm Harbor. Complainants say they sold the shop their boats and never got paid and/or paid for boats they never received. Pinellas County Consumer Protection is leading the investigation.