SFA's "Once Upon a Mattress" promotional graphic

SFA’s School of Theatre and Dance and School of Music will present “Once Upon a Mattress” Nov. 2 through 5 in the new Flex Theatre in Griffith Fine Arts Building.

NACOGDOCHES, Texas – Another first will take place in the Flex Theatre on the Stephen F. Austin State University campus Nov. 2 through 5 when the musical “Once Upon a Mattress” takes the stage in the new intimate space.
SFA’s School of Theatre and Dance and the School of Music will combine their talents to present Concord Theatricals’ musical version of “The Princess and the Pea” in this Mainstage Series event. With music by Mary Rodgers, lyrics by Marshall Barer and book by Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller and Marshall Barer, “Once Upon a Mattress” is the first large-scale musical SFA has produced since before the Covid pandemic, according to Angela Bacarisse, professor of theatre and the show’s director.
“Since this is the inaugural year for the Flex Theatre, we decided to do the musical in there instead of on Turner stage,” Bacarisse explained. “This meant that we needed to choose a musical that could be produced with a musical ensemble instead of a full orchestra.”
SFA’s presentations of many past musicals, like “Spamalot” and “Oklahoma,” featured orchestras of 25 members. “Once Upon a Mattress” will have an ensemble of eight, according to Bacarisse.
“The Flex does not have an orchestra pit, so the challenge will be incorporating space for the musicians and conductor into the set,” she said.
“Once Upon a Mattress” takes place “many moons ago” in a far-off place when Queen Aggravain decreed no couples could marry until her son, Prince Dauntless, found a bride. Princesses came from far and wide to win the hand of the prince, but none could pass the impossible tests given to them by the queen. That is, until the “shy” swamp princess, Winnifred the Woebegone, showed up. Would she be able to pass the Sensitivity Test, marry her prince and help Lady Larkin and Sir Harry to the altar? Carried on a wave of wonderful songs, by turns hilarious and raucous, romantic and melodic, this rollicking spin on the classic tale “The Princess and the Pea” provides some side-splitting shenanigans.
“Once Upon a Mattress” has slightly more adult themes than “The Princess and the Pea,” and it’s set to music.
“I am excited because this will be the first musical I am directing since Covid hit and cancelled ‘The Fantasticks’ in 2020,” Bacarisse said. “The School of Theatre and Dance has produced a few summer children’s musicals, and a small one with ‘[title of show]’ in Kennedy. But now we are back with a full-on musical with dancing ladies and knights.”
Bacarisse said everyone will enjoy the musical, but a good “appropriate-age” estimate is for 14 and up. “As a parent myself,” she added, “I think that the more adult themes will go over the heads of youngsters who will be enthralled with the pageantry and spectacle of the production.”
Figuring out how to stage a musical in a brand new relatively small space will be a challenge, Bacarisse said, and they are working with “a shorter time frame to get everything up and on its feet,” she said.
Bacarisse has several trained dancers in the cast, but every cast member will be dancing at some point. “Training in voice, acting and dance takes time, but having that triple threat is necessary in musical theatre,” she said. “This would not be possible without our partnership with the faculty and students in the School of Music.”
After local audiences see “Once Upon a Mattress,” Bacarisse is confident they will have an even better understanding of  “how talented our student performers, technicians and designers really are.”
Done well, it may seem like magic that musical theatre happens, “but our students really put in the time and work to get everything just right for our audiences,” Bacarisse said.
“Once Upon a Mattress” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 2 through 4, and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 4 and 5. General admission ticket prices are: adult, $15; senior (62+), $10; youth (high school and younger), $8; SFA faculty/staff, $8; non-SFA student, $8; and SFA student, $5. For ticketing information or to purchase tickets, call the Fine Arts Box Office at (936) 468-6407 or (888) 240-ARTS, or visit the box office website. For information about the play, call (936) 468-4003 or visit the School of Theatre and Dance.