Princess Winnifred, played by Westosha Central senior Kaitlyn Shaffer, fawns over Prince Dauntless (freshman Jimmy Vineyard) during a Nov. 9 rehearsal of “Once Upon a Mattress” in the school’s cafetorium (Jason Arndt/The Report).

Show opens Friday and runs through weekend

By Jason Arndt

Senior Kaitlyn Shaffer of Westosha Central High School never played an upbeat character until this year’s musical production of “Once Upon a Mattress.”

“Once Upon a Mattress” is a comedy first produced in 1959 and based on the book titled “The Princess and the Pea.” The play is authored by Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller and Marshall Barer with Mary Rodgers compiling the musical arrangements.

Westosha Central drama director Michael Klimzak describes the musical as a fractured fairy tale with a cartoon quality.

“I think it is a comedy with no seriousness,” he said. “It is like a cartoon, I think when this was first produced, it was a fairy tale.”

Klimzak, who noted about two-dozen students make up the pit band, said the music offers a contemporary touch.

The musical runs on the Westosha Central stage 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday followed by a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee performance.

Shaffer, who depicts the role of “Princess Winnifred,” said the fairy tale comedy chronicles the love story of her character and “Prince Dauntless,” who is played by freshman Jimmy Vineyard.

In the production, King Sextimus is a stricken with a curse, which renders him speechless, while his wife Queen Aggravain takes control of the kingdom.

Queen Aggravain, who’s overprotective of her son, Prince Dauntless, tries to keep him single, unless a prospective princess meets a strict test.

Senior Amelia Kusch plays Queen Aggravain, whom she describes as boisterous and looking to hold power over the kingdom.

“She is very aggravating and is probably the loudest character in the show,” Kusch said. “She wants everything her way.”

Shaffer said in the kingdom, no one else can marry until Vineyard’s character does, but runs into problems when Lady Larken becomes pregnant with Sir Harry’s baby.

Sir Harry then finds Shaffer’s “Princess Winnifred” character, who attempts to pass Queen Aggravain’s impassible test.

“She is everything that a princess is not. She is not delicate, she is not dainty, she is very rowdy and almost unladylike,” said Shaffer. “She is extremely extroverted, she loves crowds and loves people.”

Her outgoing character, meanwhile, presented a challenge for Shaffer.

If you go…

WHAT: “Once Upon a Mattress”

WHEN: Friday, Nov. 16 and Saturday Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 18 at 2 p.m.

WHERE: Westosha Central High School, 24617 75th St., Salem.

COST: $10 for adults, free for children under 5.

Tackling challenges
Shaffer, a seasoned veteran on the Westosha Central stage, previously played darker, or pessimistic roles, like “Morticia Addams” in last year’s production of “Addams Family.”

“Usually, in the past, all of the roles that I have played were very sassy and very snippy,” said Shaffer, adding she needs to maintain high energy to portray “Princess Winnifred.”

“I am used to being very pessimistic on stage.”
Unlike earlier productions, where she often performed alongside recent graduates Danny Persino and Braden Gere, Shaffer underwent a learning curve when she was paired with Vineyard, the freshman.

Vineyard, who plays Prince Dauntless, has helped Shaffer make a smooth transition.

“Working with Jimmy has been a wonder. He has been really nice,” Shaffer said. “We have actually gotten really close and I am really excited to be doing the show with him.”

This weekend’s musical is the first time Vineyard has been on stage since the seventh grade, when he took the stage at Wheatland Center School.

Although he has less experience on stage, compared to Shaffer, Vineyard said he remains confidence.

“Honestly, I haven’t really struggled much with this. It has just been so much fun,” he said. “There are a lot of good characters and also great chemistry.”

Senior-laden crew
Since rehearsals started about 10 weeks ago, more than 100 students and staff have worked diligently learning their lines and stage locations, according to Klimzak.

Of about 102 total people involved in the show, there are 33 seniors, nearly double from last year’s musical production of “Addams Family.”

“This year, we have a lot of seniors,” he said.

Along with 25 students on the pit band, Klimzak estimates 30 students are in the cast, with another 30 or more on the crew.

In addition to Shaffer and Kusch, other senior cast members are: Curtis Vineyard as Sir Harry; Logan Congdon, King Sextimus; Grant Thomas, Wizard; Nikki Knoerr, Lady Lucille; and Emily Thomas, Princess Number 12.

Junior cast members include Nora Klick, Jester; Lauren Davis, Lady Rowena; and Kourtney Ellis, Lady Mabelle.

Participating sophomores are Aly Wolf, Lady Larken; Jonathan Steinbach, Minstrel; Fiona Schmeelk, Lady Merrill; Colin Hall, Sir Luce; Madison Sheen and Hannah Zimmerman, both Nightingales of Samarkand.

In addition to Jimmy Vineyard, freshmen cast members are Amanda Palmen, Lady Helen and James Talbert, Sir Studley.


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