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Romance, Comedy, Musical
IMDB rating:
Kathleen Marshall
Tracey Ullman as Princess Winnifred
Stephenos Christou as Dancing Knight
Brittany Gray as Ensemble
Scott Augustine as Dancing Knight
Linda Bernath as Dancer
Jordan Cable as Dancing Knight
Paul Becker as Knight
Michael Boatman as The Jester
Edward Hibbert as The Wizard
Matthew Morrison as Sir Harry
Michelle Harrison as Princess #12
Carol Burnett as Queen Aggravain
Zooey Deschanel as Lady Larken
Denis O'Hare as Prince Dauntless
Storyline: In this hilarious tweaking of the fairy tale, "The Princess and the Pea", Queen Aggravain has ruled that none may marry until her son, Prince Dauntless marries. However, she has managed to sabotage every princess that come along. When Sir Harry and Lady Larken learn that they are going to be parents, wed or not, he goes off to the swamps and brings back Princess Winnifred ("Fred" to her friends). The queen is horrified and immediately begins to scheme, but Winnifred, with some help from Sir Harry, the King, and the Jester, isn't going to be quite so easy to get rid of.
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Disney: Hands off, please!
Mattress is a great show... for those 16 or older. Like most Warner "Looney Tunes" it was never intended for children! Now, if you take that very premise, and try to make it palatable for the Christain set between our 2 mountain ranges, you kill the very premise for the show in the first place! The original plot revolves around, and is propelled by a pre-marital pregnancy, an Oedipal relationship, a woman-chasing father, and typical court intrigue. These are now, essentially all gone and with them went the engine that drives the show. That said, the actors here were all fine, and generally well cast (although I'd have gone with Marcel Marceau or the brilliant Bill Irwin for the King, even though Tommy Smothers was still great) and all the leads made the very wise choice of going with their own strengths as opposed to trying to out do the originals. Tracey Ullman was great as her own Winnifred, and Burnett created her own Queen, knowing that, like her own Winnifred of 1959, Jane White's original Queen is absolutely not copyable! The "dated" musical sound of the original was marvelously updated for today. All of which underscored the terrible rewriting of the book, and the stodgy direction accompanying it. Why take 5 minutes of droopy dialog to establish what "Opening For A Princess" did musically in 2? Where did that useless dungeon scene come from? "The Queen Has Ordered Quiet" and "Very Soft Shoes"" would have fit much better in the same amount of time. "Mattress" is a fully loaded freight train racing down a steep mountain grade, barely staying on the tracks, whistle and bells going all the way. Anything less (like the recent Broadway revival too) just falls flat. I wish they'd either re-release the 1964 B&W version, or someone please do a shot-by-shot remake, as it was written! No, Hollywood, you don't know better than the original Broadway writers and, no Disney, you don't know real comedy. You know "cute, innocent and humorous," but that's a long way from comedy! Please stop remaking Broadway musical comedies. Let someone else do it, please!
Seen it on stage and with Carol B as 'Fred. This one an eye feast
Beautiful costumes, great set, good voices, but couldn't they find YOUNGER actors to play 'Fred and Dauntless? Gees--- Having these two parts with 40 somethings actors takes away from the freshness and charm of the story. Yes, it is just a fairy tale, but I would imagine there are hundreds of fresh young faces both on Broadway and around Hollywood dying for a break like this re-make. I am a bit surprised with Carol B as producer that she didn't cut some newbies a break and let them shine in this production. The show is not bad, just odd because of the middle aged prince and princess. Carol B's gowns were sensational by the way. Did Bob Mackey design?
Better than most specials I have seen recently
I remember the TV presentation of Once Upon a Mattress in which Carol Burnett was Princess Winifred, and loved it. I also loved Tracey Ullman when she had her innovative show on Fox years ago. There is a magic about her making her really the only choice for a role Carol Burnett owns.

It is really perfection to have Prince Dauntless and Princess Winifred middle aged, or at least beyond their first bloom of youth. The plight of the prince seeking a wife is more poignant thinking of him waiting for 10 or 20 years for his mom to approve of a wife for him. Only thing is, Carol Burnett looks too young to have such an old son! It was so nice to have a reprise of the show. Somehow I remember the original as having more songs, at least more something. I wish they would make the original available either on TV or on DVD.
Personally, I find this Disney version of Once Upon a Mattress extremely disappointing. It is drastically different from the stage version, even up to the point of completely eliminating one of the supporting leads (the Minstrel) from the movie. The actors and actresses playing the leads fell a little flat and most of the choreography was not as strong as it could have been.

The change that I find most disturbing is the elimination of the Minstrel. In the stage version, the Minstrel is one of my favorite characters because of his great one-liners. In this movie, those are completely gone and so are all of the Minstrel's songs. "Many Moons Ago", which the Minstrel sings to open the show and introduce the story in the stage version, is cut down to a single verse at the beginning of the movie and "Normandy", while still present in the movie version, is sung by Harry and Larken instead of the Minstrel, the Jester, and Larken. The Minstrel's other song (The Minstrel, the Jester, and I), sung by the Minstrel and the Jester, with the King pantomiming many of the words, is also completely cut. I find these changes disturbing because they completely change the tone of the show.

I was also very disappointed in Carol Burnett and Zooey Deschanel. The other leads I thought were acceptable, but Burnett and Deschanel fell flat for me. Burnett was an amazing Winnifred in the original production, but her rendition of Queen Aggravain was too muted and not nearly as dominant as the Queen should be played. As for Deschanel, it is my opinion that she was chosen for the role based more on her name and face than on her singing and acting. The normal high, sweet soprano voice of Lady Larken is brought down several tones to suit Deschanel's voice and it does not suit the character as well.
Good, not great
I have to agree with many other viewers... many things have been "Disney"fied. However, I want to point out that O'Hare needs a little more credit here. His character is somewhat weak, so his "sloppy diction" (which, all rabid Broadway fans knows he is known for) actually seems to endear him to the part.

Burnett shines especially, and Deschanel is charming. All in all, it's good fun to watch, but don't get your hopes up too high. This is obviously a kid-friendly, super colorful, bit of fun. No off-color humor here, so for those of us with a more wicked sense of humor, we'll have to wait a little longer!
Very endearing little musical with a mixed bag of results...
While watching ONCE UPON A MATTRESS and seeing Carol Burnett as Queen Aggravain, I immediately realized that she must have played Princess Winnifred in the original version of the show in the '60s. This became all too clear when I saw that Tracey Ullman's daffy princess was lacking a certain spark that Burnett would have given to the part--plus she was a little too mature for the role to begin with.

Denis O'Hare seemed another case of miscasting as Prince Dauntless, a role could easily have been played by Matthew Morrison, who instead was saddled with a boring secondary role.

But despite these misgivings, there's much to like about this rowdy version of the tale, vibrant with colorful sets and costumes (particularly Burnett's jeweled outfits) and some witty lines that are tossed about by a capable cast.

But there's always the feeling that something isn't right--and not being able to compare this version with the original I can't say what it is but I see from other reviews that much of the original material was altered or deleted entirely. Perhaps this is why there's a feeling that it could have been so much better.

Summing up: For Carol Burnett fans, it's a delicious chance to watch her play broad comedy with such finesse. She never misses an opportunity to ham it up but keeps it from being too over-the-top to be enjoyable. And while the choreography could have been more inventive, Tracey Ullman gives all of her energy to some of the dance routines with some very funny results.

Unfortunately, Tom Smothers is wasted in the role of the mute King Sextimus. But all in all, it's a fun version of a fractured fairy-tale, based on "The Princess and the Pea."
Mattress disappoints
A longtime fan of ONCE UPON A MATTRESS and Carol Burnett, I was anxiously awaiting the new version of the Mary Rogers musical. I was totally disappointed. It was difficult to sit through more than about the first fifteen minutes because it was slow, without sparkle, and very tedious( much like THE MUSIC MAN of a couple of years ago, that reduced the colorful musical to a tiresome bore with a totally "lacking" Harold Hill). I would assume that when a project like this is begun, the creative forces that be, would brainstorm to decide the pros and cons of the original work and then improve on them. This production blatantly amplifies the weaknesses of the original and eliminates everything that was charming and sweet. Eliminating the opening number gave us no interest in pursuing the story an further. And eliminating the purpose of the jester, wizard and King caused the best songs in the musical to disappear. Even Bob Mackie hit an all-time low with his wild "Queen" costumes that paid no attention to the time period or the concept of the rest of the show. Granted, the general costumes reflected an obvious lack of color, taste and design, but to match them with the Mackie creations was abysmal. Performances were average, mainly because of the missing script and clever lines. Dick Smothers was reduced to a minor plot ploy and the amazing mime antics int the original were completely missing. Miss Burnett was adequate, and with her major talent should have been stupendous. The rest of the cast looked eager to have something "happen" and it never did. I guess I would rather this production company NOT revive old musicals than produce lackluster shows like this.
Just good, but still worth watching...Lady Larkin as terrific.
Musicals are always fun to see. This made for TV musical, although was mildly disappointing, was extremely addicting! Rising to the top of the charts was Zooey Deschanel as Lady Larkin. Zooey although was not the best singer, had a very unique voice that some may find bad but others may find terrific. She played the art tremendously and her and Matthew Morrison had great chemistry on screen. Tracey Ullman as Fred, the Princess from the swamps was much to old to play the part and you don't seem to care for the part as much as if a young innocent girl was playing the part.

Carol Burnette was disappointing as the Queen, but still played the part well. Over all I thought the entire movie was just good. There was nothing special but I still enjoyed it a lot!
I am a big fan of the Made for TV Movie, although up until now it was much more fun to say I liked watching them than to actually do so. I cite here the recent cavalcade of TV movies by CBS, which have featured such classics as "Locusts", "Vampire Bats", "Category 6: Day of Destruction" and "Category 7: The End of the World." CBS has this really marvelous gift for making a two hour movie feel like a four hour infomercial. I imagine this went miles in budget economy.

And, at first glance, "Once Upon a Mattress" appears the same: the down-and-out passing the torch on to the up-and-coming, flanked by a small army of hopeful actors, some of whom apparently sponge-painted the set. And that's why it takes about half an hour to realize that this is actually excellent. I mean, this is the first Disney movie since "The Lion King" that I actually LIKED. I missed The Simpsons to watch the ending, something Tracy Ullman (who is, of course, the lead, and whose "Tracy Ullman Show" actually SPAWNED The Simpsons so many years ago) would approve of. The teacher still has an edge on the pupil.

This is a masterpiece of Made for Television Theatre. Zooey 'Life, the Universe and Everything' Deschanel, fresh from "The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy" works seamlessly with her seniors and the male actors, none of whom I have seen anywhere else, also have talent. Who knew? CBS can blow up as many buildings as it likes; ABC is the new Made For TV superstar.
What a disappointment in a wonderful show
I was very much looking forward to this new TV "Mattress," especially to see Carol Burnett playing the role she played opposite in the original Broadway production. I was a little skeptical about Tracy Ullman, but willing to see what this new version would be like.

Well, my fears about Tracy Ullman were fulfilled, and then some. She was simply miscast in the role of Princess Winnifred. Though, even worse was the actress playing Lady Larkin as though she were in a bad '80s teeny-bopper movie. Her voice was not good enough to sing Larkin, so her harmonies with the marvelous Matthew Morrison were mucked with to the point that some of the songs were almost unrecognizable.

And even the good performers (Carol Burnett, Denis O'Hare, Matthew Morrison) could not save it, due to poor direction. The choreography was pedestrian at best. The majority of the jokes were given away before the punchline was anywhere in sight.

The highlight was the new song written for Carol Burnett as Queen Aggravaine. Still, the whole thing stayed very "safe," which you cannot do with musical theatre. Safe musical theatre is boring musical theatre.

The whole thing, I'm sad to say, is a disappointment and an embarrassment.
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