Wednesday, March 27, 2013

"Once Upon a Mattress": the little musical (good to watch on the day that SCOTUS debates "marriage")

In a year that gives so much attention to the big musicals (“Book of Mormon” is due for the screen in 2015 or so), it’s good to look at a few of the smaller ones. 
Once Upon a Mattress” last  entered film as a made-for-TV film for Disney in 2005, directed by Kathleen Marshall. (There are 1964 and 1972 versions.)  It is based upon the off-Broadway 1959 musical by that name (it later went to Broadway) with music by Mary Rodgers and lyrics by Marshall Baher, based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson, “The Princess and the Pea” (and maybe that can be a chickpea, as in “Cold Souls”).

The musical is very popular in high school productions. 

The plot seems ironic when viewed on a day when the Supreme Court heard oral arguments about gay marriage, because this is a musical comedy about the “meaning” of marriage.

The story takes place in a medieval or fantasy kingdom, which on the film seems to be rendered in GCI, to look like a set of a castle with a little outdoor space for gallantry.  The colors in the film are quite garish, using the same film hue technique as “Oz” (March 16).

In the story, a bossy Queen Aggravain (Carol Burnett) insists on finding only the most perfect bridge for her homely son princePrince Dauntless (Dennis O’Hare).  Probably most school and community productions choose a relatively good looking person for the role, but the musical is much funnier if the leading man is quite homely and ordinary.  Also, no other marriages in the kingdom can occur until a perfect bridge is found for this almost-gay prince.  That could definitely cause a “demographic winter in the kingdom (to the delight of the religious right). 
But a particular young knight Sir Harry (Matthew Morrison, who is and should be handsome) finds his girlfriend Larken  (Zooey Deschanel) is pregnant.  He can only get married if he can find a bride for Dauntless.  That will be a rather mannish girl Winnifred the Woebegone (Tracey Uhlmann) . 

The Queen sets up tests for the princess, including an exhausting ball, and a particular enactment of the wedding chamber where the bed is covered with twenty mattresses,  which a chickpea at the bottom, to see if the princess is “senstivie” (feminine) enough to carry out her duties. Just as in "Twin Peaks", there is some "warm milk" (but not "skim milk").  

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