SPRING HILL — It's no small wonder why Once Upon a Mattress has become such a hit with high school drama students.
The characters are lovably quirky, the dialogue is filled with acid-like sarcasm and the musical numbers soar with such lighthearted fun that it's hard to resist smiling while you're singing them.
At least that's what Springstead High senior Megan Berube thinks. She has played in no fewer than a half-dozen ensemble cast productions since her freshman year, including Peter Pan; Seussical, the Musical and Anything Goes. Mattress, she says, is perhaps the most enjoyable stage experience she has ever had.
"It's hilarious and sassy and a little bit crazy from time to time," said Berube, 18, who plays the role of the Court Jester. "Everybody had so much fun with it."
The show, which opens Thursday at Springstead Theatre, features many of this year's graduating thespians in starring roles, including Meghan Moholland, who plays Queen Aggravain, and Lucas Altuz, who portrays Prince Dauntless, said Springstead drama and choral director Mark Pennington.
"A lot of the cast members are veterans of other big shows we've done, and that has allowed us to progress at a faster pace than usual," Pennington said. "That's a big help when you have a large cast and not much time to prepare for a show."
As has become typical with most of the school's major theater productions, Pennington spent about $1,800 to rent authentic costumes for the 30-member cast. Brittany Burdette, who plays Princess Winnifred, believes it was well worth the added expense.
"Being able to wear nice costumes makes your performance seem more professional," Burdette said. "When the audience sees you on stage, they are more likely to believe the story that you're trying to convey to them."
Based on the fairy tale The Princess and the Pea, the famed musical, written by Mary Rogers and Marshall Barer, holds broad audience appeal and is a popular production among community theater groups.
The story revolves around Princess Winnifred, who travels from her medieval kingdom in the faraway swamps to vie for the hand of the Prince Dauntless the Drab. Her worthiness of the throne is nearly derailed, however, by the prince's overly possessive and slightly incestuous mother, Queen Agravain, who tries to thwart their union by devising tests that are nearly impossible to pass.
Berube said that she and her fellow cast members delight in exploring the show's well-timed humor.
"The dialogue is very fast-paced at times, so you really have to focus on how you deliver your lines," she said. "We've worked hard at getting it as smooth as we can. Hopefully, the audience will enjoy watching it as much as we've enjoyed making it come together."
Logan Neill can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1435.