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Monday, February 24, 2014

THEATRE REVIEW BLOG - ONCE UPON A MATTRESS AT MIGHTY GOLIATH PRODUCTIONS (MGP)




There is a very special community theatre in Avon Lake that is celebrating its 55th season. Mighty Goliath Productions, more popularly known as MGP, has produced for 55 years, infusing community, spirit, empowering young people, providing family entertainment, and contributing proceeds toward the performing arts programs of the Avon Lake City Schools. Quite an accomplishment. The current production of “Once Upon A Mattress” is dedicated to the memory of Betty S. Dingledy who, together with her husband Ed, was responsible for what is known today as MGP, when she created the 1959 Minstrel Show.

MGP has a unique approach to casting and rehearsing. The ensemble is open to everyone, regardless of experience. They look for singers/actors, but if you show up, you're in, thus eliminating a high pressure audition process that might dissuade someone from participating in the show. The lead roles are cast in a more traditional manner. Also, they only rehearse on Friday nights. But the magic is pulled together during the final week before opening night. Truly a remarkable feat. On this, MGP stands alone.

The current production of “Once Upon A Mattress” is pleasantly directed by Ian Atwood, and skillfully produced by Jessica Atwood, who concurrently produced an Atwood heir, Neil Francis. “Once Upon A Mattress” is the hysterical tweaking of the fairy tale, “The Princess and the Pea.” The kingdom is an unhappy one because Queen Aggravain has ruled that none may marry until her son, Prince Dauntless, marries a princess of royal blood. However, she has managed to sabotage every princess that comes along. When Sir Harry and Lady Larken learn that they are going to be parents, wed or not, Sir Harry goes off to the swamps and brings back an ungainly, brash Princess Winnifred, ("Fred" to her friends). The queen is horrified and immediately begins to scheme. However, Winnifred, with some help from Sir Harry, the King, and the Jester, isn't going to be quite so easy to get rid of. The original show was the break out vehicle for Carol Burnett as Winnifred.

The 21 piece orchestra, led by its director Jim Lucas, starts the evening off with delicious instrumentation flowing from a formal pit, that saturates the space with energy and anticipation. Atwood updates a more modern approach, which is reflected in the costumes (designer Joann Sarvas) and references to modern media like Facebook. The same conundrum of "first impressions" and the resistance of our kids leaving the nest are relevant in any time period.  

Kristen Jones as Queen Aggravain delightfully chews more scenery than a flood of carpenter ants. With comedic chops in tow, she dominates her family, struggles to let go, and eventually gets her comeuppance. Winnifred the Woebegone and Prince Dauntless, Brittney-Jade Colangelo and Lucas A. Scattergood, remind me of Carol Burnett and Harvey Korman. Colangelo deftly handles the prime role with chaotic charm and a set of pipes that commands attention. Scattergood plays the mama's boy well, infusing laughter everywhere in his quest for a wife. There is a great connection between these two that evokes rooting for the jocular couple. Lady Larkin and Sir Harry, Amanda Isula and Brett Hall, utilize their good looks and strong voices, to enhance their fertile love story with great chemistry and Disney moments for days. 

At one moment during the show, it clicked. Three Stooges. Three Musketeers. Minstrel, Jester, and King Sexitmus (Douglas F. Bailey II, Steve Schuerger and Jerry Popiel). Three actors who should always travel together and create havoc as a job. Their shtick is ineffable. Bailey provides gorgeous vocals, blessed with clarity and control. Schuerger utilizes his physicality to great aplomb with comedic skills. Popeil is a beautiful hot mess of vocal distress. Unable to speak as a result of a curse, he gesticulates a lot, creating a hilarious interpretation of the birds and the bees along the way. 

Matthew Cuffari as the Wizard, Aggravain's sidekick, provides deleterious delightful moments, while possessing a strong voice that gets to glimmer once but, unfortunately, not more in the script. As the Nightingale, Grace Penzualto is a flapping, operatic, feathered creation of paradise, working the cage like a pro, and providing hilarious results.

As chorographer, Jessica Atwood moves the ensemble well by providing steps for the novice, and slick moves for the hoofers, managing the large cast in good order. Nice work is done by Musical Director James Kotora. The ensemble voices provide luscious vocals. Kudos to Scenic Designer Gary Fischer for the multi-colored cracker jack bed, that holds quite a surprise.

MGP is pure community theatre at its best, standing the test of time and providing the community and the actors with boundless rewards.

Kevin Joseph Kelly

2/24/14



Staff and Cast:

Director: Ian Atwood
Music Director: Jim Kotora

Cast:
Winnifred the Woebegone…Brittney-Jade Colangelo
Prince Dauntless…Luke Scattergood
Lady Larken…Amanda Isula
Sir Harry…Brett Hall
Minstrel…Douglas F. Bailey II
Jester…Steve Schuerger
King…Jerry Popiel
Queen…Kristen Jones
Wizard…Matthew Cuffari
Nightingale…Grace Penzvalto

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February 21 - March 1
Showtimes:
7:30pm Fridays
7:30pm Saturdays
2pm Sunday


Tickets:
$12-$15 General Admission

Order Tickets Online
Location:
Avon Lake High School
175 Avon Belden Road
Avon Lake, OH 44012

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