High energy choreography and brightly colored costumes brought the show to life but it was the acting that made it memorable. Maya Claridge, playing Winnifred the Woebegone, made the audience fall in love with a girl named “Fred.” Paired with Jason Neuhalfen, playing the hapless Prince Dauntless, Claridge and Neuhalfen had the audience in stitches with the perfect duo of his kid-like excitement and her wildly comedic charm.
As the story goes, no one in the land can wed until Prince Dauntless finds a wife, but the catch is his doting mother, Queen Aggravain (played by Shelby Horne) doesn’t really want him to be wed so she sabotages every princess that tries for his hand. Enter Winnifred, the moat-swimming, unrefined, loud swamp thing who Dauntless instantly loves and there’s conflict in the kingdom! King Sextimus (played by Brian Dunning) is mute but manages with the help of the Minstrel (played by Henry Walter) and the Jester (played by Nathan George) to teach his son about the birds and bees. Add in a loogie-hocking Wizard (played by Annaka Christensen), a pregnant Lady in Waiting named Larken (played by Brianna Gress) and a pompous Sir Harry (played by Braeden Wilson) and, well, you have the makings of an entertaining tale.
Claridge, who will be attending NYU-Tisch School of the Arts this fall and is confirmed by Legacy school counselor Carrie Kujawa to be the first Legacy drama student accepted to Tisch, told Denise Plante on Colorado & Company that the show was, “fun, upbeat and very comedic,” and she wasn’t wrong. (View the Colorado & Company interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4uuplbjpTWA ) It is her character of Winnifred that drives the humor which made audiences laugh out loud. Scratching her bum, snoring, sneezing in the face of the Queen, pulling a fish from her moat-soaked dress or scrubbing the floor with her gown are all things that connected onlookers to the character and her dream of a happily ever after. But we also can’t forget Claridge’s expressive features and comedic timing rendered flawlessly throughout the show. One knowing glance toward the audience and Claridge single-handedly pulls them in and makes them laugh. Balance Winnifred’s big and bold persona with Dauntlesses man-child playfulness and the two became a dynamite duo that made Once Upon a Mattress magical.
Photos credited to Jeff Jasica and used by permission of Legacy High School Drama Department.