Not your traditional fairy tale
It takes a kingdom, or the community of Jamestown in this case, to put on a play. Rehearsals for the Jamestown Community Theater’s fall production, “Once Upon a Mattress,” are in full swing, and in true JCT fashion, the play promises to entertain all audiences.
Enter Julie Andrews as director. This isn’t her first stint heading a JCT production – in years past, Andrews has directed “Into the Woods” and “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.” She has been living in Jamestown since 1994, and in the mean time, Andrews has been singing, acting, directing and teaching the arts from Roger Williams University to PPAC and back to Jamestown. Andrews also created and directs Accidental Sisters, a women’s a capella group on the island.
But fear not, the theatre’s bold leader is only taking a break from directing and is enjoying a muchneeded vacation. Co-founder Mary Wright is looking forward to taking a seat in the audience for the show, but she is by no means retiring. Her passion for the theatre and community involvement is evident.
“JCT embraces a special community spirit, where people of all ages work together,” she said. “The role models and the multigenerational peer relationships that continue to exist, I feel are unique.”
Andrews promises a “gloriously funny” show complete with its share of adult humor. Also in JCT fashion are the more than 20 children who make up the cast and ensemble. This is not your traditional fairy tale. Andrews describes “Once Upon a Mattress” as “subtly adult-themed, but appropriate for children of all ages.” According to co-producer Kellie Toland, “The actors are hysterical in practice. There have already been scene-stopping, belly-laugh moments among the entire cast at practice.”
In this nontraditional fairy tale, the princess is really the frog and the prince is the one that needs to be rescued. There are some familiar names and faces in the cast and crew, as well as some newcomers to the island and the community theatre.
“Once Upon a Mattress” is a musical comedy that opened off Broadway in May 1959. The play was written as an adaption of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, “The Princess and the Pea.”
Andrews is thrilled with her production team, which includes co-producers Toland and Lisa Rafferty. A.O. Guttierez leads lighting design, and JCT newcomer and professional architect Alejandra Billington is in charge of set design.
“The amount of work that goes into that is phenomenal,” said Andrews. “It’s been like a full-time job for her.”
Veteran head of set construction Steve Farrelly has already spent countless hours at the recreation center. Eliza Andrews will help with choreography, and Walter Sage is the musical director.
The Jamestown Community Theatre is a nonprofit organization committed to fostering the growth of arts, culture, social awareness and the education of Jamestown’s young people through the joint involvement of youth and adults in the theater experience. Existing under the town’s Parks and Recreation Department and overseen by an active board of directors, all those who make up the cast and crew, from the backstage to promotions, are Jamestown residents.
In 1990, two great admirers of the creative arts, Mary Wright and Patricia Vandal, were given $500 in start-up money by the Jamestown Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force to stage a play with the youth of Jamestown. The two founders insisted on a cast and crew that included both adults and children, in order to foster positive relationships between generations. The first show was “Peter Pan” and included about 45 cast members. Now, 22 years later, casts have sometimes included more than 100 people.
“Once Upon a Mattress” will take place on two consecutive weekends in November: Nov. 9-11 and Nov. 16-18. Friday and Saturday performances will begin at 7 p.m., and Sunday performances will begin at 4 p.m. All shows will be held at the recreation center.
Tickets can be purchased starting Friday, Oct. 12, at Baker’s Pharmacy, Cathryn Jamieson Salon, Conanicut Marine Ship’s Store & Chandlery, and the Secret Garden. In Newport, tickets will be sold at Pleasant Surprise. In Wickford, Midnight Sun will sell tickets. Advance prices are $13 for general admission, $8 for seniors and children. Prices will increase $3 if purchased at the door.