Back in 1959 Once Upon A Mattress debuted on the Broadway stage. This musical comedy was a retelling of the fairy tale, The Princess and the Pea, and was the show that launched the career of Carol Burnett who starred in the lead role of Princess Winnifred. Though I'd been aware of the show's history, I had never actually seen it performed until last night when I saw a production of it at Theatre Sheridan.
While the play itself is, admittedly, a fairly lightweight piece of fluff, it does boast some really fun musical numbers. And although I didn't think it was as strong a show choice as Sheridan's offering back in December, The Drowsy Chaperone, it did feature exuberant performances from the entire youthful cast. The Drowsy Chaperone was probably the finest show I've seen performed yet at Sheridan over several years of attending their productions, so it would have been asking too much for lightning to strike twice in a row. Whereas that show seems to lend itself more to an ensemble cast with many plum roles to go around, Once Upon a Mattress strikes me as more of a star vehicle for the leading lady playing Princess Winnifred.
But what a performance we got from the young lady playing Winnifred in this production! Her name is Kyla Musselman, and I predict she'll go on to great things onstage once she graduates at the end of this college year. Kyla is a little ball of fire with an impossibly cute face, a huge smile and sparkling brown eyes. She seems to have boundless energy that she puts into her singing and dancing, while also possessing a flawless sense of comic timing. There's one song number that requires her to dash back and forth across the stage, alternately picking up a barbell then taking great gulps from a chalice of ale, among several other stunts, expertly hitting her marks without fail all while the rest of the cast is singing this fast paced song. There's also a dance number that progressively picks up pace that the whole cast starts out performing, only to drop out one by one until just Princess Winnifred finishes it up to its breakneck finale. This role demands a multi-talented performer and clearly young Kyla is up to the challenge.
Kyla Musselman also had a supporting role in the aforementioned The Drowsy Chaperone as Kitty, the ditzy chorine in love with theatrical producer, Feldzeig. Although in that show everybody got to shine, Kyla was still a standout with great stage presence and magnetism. Sheridan's music theatre program is highly respected here in Canada, having graduated many fine performers including Sarah Cornell, Michael Therriault, and Janna Polzin, all of whom I have written about before. I believe that Kyla Musselman will also be a name to watch for on the marquee, as she truly possesses star quality. I'm happy to see that I'm not the only one who thinks so, as I found this review of Once Upon a Mattress that would seem to agree that Kyla is one to watch for.