Acclaimed theatre veteran to direct 'Once Upon a Mattress'

SUNY Oswego will present “Once Upon a Mattress,” a comical spinoff of the well-known fairytale “The Princess and the Pea,” turning Waterman Theatre into a magical, eccentric kingdom in April.

New York City-based director and choreographer Stephen Nachamie will guest-direct the farce produced by the college’s theatre and music departments. It will preview at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 18, and run at 8 p.m. April 19, 20 and 27, with a concluding matinee at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 28.

Three Once Upon a Mattress cast members“Once Upon a Mattress” tells the tale of a king silenced by both a curse and his queen, a terror who tries to control her son by keeping him single. With music by Mary Rodgers and lyrics by Marshall Barer, the play based on the book by Barer, Jay Thompson and Dean Fuller first opened off Broadway in 1959, transferring later that year to Broadway’s Alvin (now Neil Simon) Theatre and helping launch Carol Burnett’s comedic career.

Nachamie, who has over 20 years’ experience in direction and choreography—from “Foreverman” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival to “Luck! The Musical” at the York Theatre with Faith Prince—said he is adding personal touches to the SUNY Oswego production of “Mattress.”

For example, Nachamie introduces a twist by casting a male to play Queen Aggravain. Daniel Williams, a graduate student at SUNY Oswego, said he is excited to take on the role.

“It’s out of my comfort zone and it’s a wonderful challenge,” he said. “She is a revolting character and over the top.”

Accomplished director

Producer and acting teacher Kevin Kennison, a 1982 SUNY Oswego alumnus who directs the college’s Summerfame program for high school theatre students, asked Nachamie to guest-direct the spring musical.

Nachamie, winner of the NC Triangle award in 2003 for “West Side Story” and the NH Spotlight Award for Best Musical Production for “Chicago” in 2004, has traveled the world and worked on many large-scale stages. He said he is thrilled to be working with students at SUNY Oswego.

“(In) this case, it’s undergrad and you get a lot of people with drive and passion with love for what they do,” Nachamie said. “Everybody’s here because they want to be here and because they love it. Sometimes in New York, it’s just a job.”

Benjamin Rebstein, a junior communication and social interaction major, projects that enthusiasm. He plays King Sextimus the Silent, forced to obey his devious wife, Queen Aggravain.

“I’m really excited about the part,” Rebstein said “He’s supposed to be the comic relief.”

Other key cast members will include Daniel Distasio as Prince Dauntless, Clare Bawarski as Princess Winnifred, Danny Stalter as Sir Harry, Sierra Meisser as Lady Larken, Jay Coley as Minstrel, Tara Fox as Princess 12, Mike Cothren as Jester and Daniel Frohm as Wizard.

Tickets are $13 ($7 for SUNY Oswego students) and are available at all college box offices, online at or by calling 315-312-2141. Tickets for the preview on April 18 are $5.

Parking is included in the cost of the ticket, and is available in lots E-6 in front of Culkin Hall and E-18 at the rear of the parking lot behind Hart and Funnelle halls.

PHOTO CAPTION: Silence is golden—SUNY Oswego’s spring musical, “Once Upon a Mattress,” will feature King Sextimus the Silent (Ben Rebstein, center), who provides comic relief as the foil to his terrifying wife Queen Aggravain (Daniel Williams, left), who tries to keep her son, Prince Dauntless (Daniel Distasio) single by insisting he can only marry a princess of truly royal blood. Based on a popular fairytale, the play will preview Thursday, April 18, and run April 19, 20, 27 and 28 in Tyler Hall’s Waterman Theatre.

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(Posted: Mar 27, 2013)

Tags: theatre, theater, once upon a mattress