In Brief, On- and Offsite


Reviewed by David Spencer

The revival of Once Upon A Mattress by the Transport Group was, to use hyperbole I learned to appreciate from the late Theatreworks/USA artistic director Jay Harnick, better than it had any right to be. A comic retelling of The Princess and the Pea that originated as special material written for the Tamiment adult summer resort in 1958, it was made longer—attenuated, quite frankly—re-mounted off Broadway and transferred to on, gaining a curious foothold in the literature, rarely if ever discussed in any survey of notable musicals, yet a favorite of schools and stock/amateur groups.

            The key to getting it right is keying in to its comic sensibility, which means not just its mildly disguised hipster humor but, as “hipster” might suggest, the tone of late ‘50s comedy that informed it. Not terribly easy, at least you wouldn’t think so from other revivals, but Jack Cummings III—the very much alive artistic director of the Transport Group, who may well be, although he hasn’t quite received this renown yet, one of the most consequentially talented and “well bred” directors of musicals of the new millennium—managed it handily, abetted by his cast, toplining rubber faced, fearless Jackie Hoffman as the princess (a role originated by Carol Burnett; subsequently played on tour by Dody Goodman and Imogene Coca); and a few modern-day flourishes, such as an animated line drawing (and, via animation, line drawn) backdrop, and the evil queen played by a famous drag queen, Lypsinka.

       As to the other above-mentioned shows: I did a little free-lancing for The Village Voice since the last ish, those were my assignments, and I'm contractually constrained from ruminating about them in these cyber-pages, since the voice paid for exclusive use of my thoughts on them (for a finite period of time, but long enough to preclude practical use here).

       So saying: here are the links. Note: I didn't say everything I'd normally say—the Voice like 'em short and sweet—but you'll get the gist…

David Spencer at the Village Voice on Allegience

David Spencer at the Village Voice on Motherstruck!

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