YAA is excited to have the return of a beloved blog column called Paco’s POV. Our wonderful Orchestra Manager, Francisco José “Paco” Cosió Marron, will be writing these regularly to give you a bit more background on the production we are currently working on, Once Upon a Mattress. Check back often to get your fill of Paco’s POV!
Now that we’ve a couple of solid orchestra rehearsals under our belts and you’ve heard the pitiful renditions of the lyrics from Mr. Sanz and myself, you should be ready to delve into the story, the roots behind the story, the composer and some of the wonderfully ironic and idiosyncratic characteristics of our main characters: Winnifred and Dauntless, the author – Hans Christian Andersen, the composer, Mary Rodgers and the lyricist, Marshall Barer.
Starting with what you have heard and have learned, the incalculably exquisite wordsmithing of the lyrics by Marshall Barer (1923 – 1998) created lines full of ironic turns of phrases. In the opening lines,
“Many moons ago in a far-off place lived a handsome prince with a gloomy face for he did not have a bride. Oh, he sighed "Alas" And he pined, Alas, but, alas, the prince couldn't find a lass who would suit his mother's pride.”
He sets out the dilemma/conflict of the story in two short sentences and using homonymic turns of the phrase ‘alas and alack’ between exclamations, nouns and verbs we learn that we lack a lass.
If you’ve not read the script, YAA has provided here.
The composer is pure Broadway royalty. Mary Rodgers (1931 – 2014) was the daughter of Richard Rodgers (Rodgers and Hart, or Rodgers and Hammerstein) Though she collaborated with the likes of Stephen Sondheim and Sammy Cahn and had many of her songs recorded by Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and others, her first musical foray Once Upon a Mattress may have been her most successful venture on the Great White Way (Broadway.)
Hans Christian Andersen (1805 – 1875) was a Danish author; a prolific writer of plays, travelogues, novels, and poems, though he is best remembered for his fairy tales. His most famous fairy tales include "The Emperor's New Clothes," "The Little Mermaid," "The Nightingale," "The Steadfast Tin Soldier", "The Red Shoes", "The Princess and the Pea," "The Snow Queen," "The Ugly Duckling," "The Little Match Girl," and "Thumbelina." His version of The Princess and the Pea was one of his shorter stories and almost a throw-off as there were several similar fairytales that already existed when he first read it as a child (possibly the Swedish version.) Even so, it caught the eye and imagination of Mary and Marshall.
Dauntless: an adjective meaning – showing fearlessness and determination (save maybe in the face of his mother, the queen, Aggravain.) Dauntless had matured and was past the marrying age because he could not find a bride that would suit his mother, how aggravating is that to our tale.
Winnifred the Woebegone is our heroine. The indefatigable and undeniably indelicately aggressive yet shy princess-frog “that came from the land of the foggy, foggy dew where walking through the meadow in the morning is like walking through glue!”
Remember that the premise of this story is, according to the King and Queen, is that true royalty can only be tested by one's sensitivity; the ability to be upset by a pea under a stack of mattresses. And consider the young lady who swims a moat, wrestles like a Greek, drinks like a lord, etc. and you begin to see the ironic comedy of the play.