The show must go on ;St. John Theatre returns to the stage with ‘Once Upon a Mattress’

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 21, 2021

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RESERVE — After a year-long intermission, talented performers are returning to the stage for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic for the 2021 summer musical “Once Upon a Mattress.”

Directed by longtime St. John Theatre friend Mike Brooks, this musical rendition of “The Princess and the Pea” tells the story of Princess Winnifred, an unsophisticated girl from the swamp who ends up competing for the hand of Prince Dauntless against the wishes of his domineering mother.

“Once Upon a Mattress” will run July 23-25 and July 28-31 at 115 W. Fourth St. in Reserve. All shows are at 7:30 p.m., with the exception of a 2:30 p.m. matinee on Sunday, July 25. Tickets, which may be purchased at the door, are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and $10 for children ages 12 and under.

Jacob Chauvin (Minstrel) and Dominic Joseph (Jester) have been part St. John Theatre since the 2017 production of “Hairspray.” They said each production becomes a family affair with familiar faces returning to the stage each year.

“The year I came here, I was feeling like a little bit of an outcast at school because some unfortunate events went down the year before. I was feeling really alone,” Chauvin said. “When I got here, I knew there were people that would really support me.”

Joseph said every person brings different talents that contribute to an amazing end product, and “Once Upon a Mattress” is no exception.

“Having not performed in so long, everyone is bringing the energy to set this year. This show has something for everybody to love, whether it be bright costumes, funny character kids will enjoy or a little more adult themed humor. You’ve also got amazing dance scenes and singing,” Joseph said.

Sadie Kelly (Queen Aggravain) has watched the production numerous times, and she’s still catching onto jokes that make her giggle behind the scenes. Even her character is delightfully over-the-top. Kelly has enjoyed stepping out of her comfort zone to play a character that is overbearing and hot-headed. Coming back to the stage after a prolonged quarantine was harder than she imagined, but the journey has been worth every second.

“It’s a great show and a good way to let go of your worries and experience something outside of yourself,” Kelly said.

Trey Lowry (Sir Harry) described “Once Upon a Mattress” as a hidden gem.

“The general public is in for a treat because they don’t know what this show is. People knew Grease. They knew Mary Poppins and Cinderella. They don’t really know this one, but it’s good to bring those fresh eyes to it,” Lowry said. “I think it’s just so special that we get to finally come back. It didn’t matter what show we did this year; I was going to enjoy it either way.”

The last time Lowry was on the St. John Theatre stage, he had a main role in “Grease.” This year, he was content to take a step back as a supporting character.
“It’s rewarding to see younger people come into their own. The person who plays Prince Dauntless is only 15 years old, and he was in the ensemble for ‘Grease’. Now he’s the lead role,” Lowry said.

Tadhg Long said “Grease” was his first production with St. John Theatre, and he’s excited to step into the spotlight as Prince Dauntless in “Once Upon a Mattress.”

“I think what’s special about this production is how much love and comedy is in it. It’s such a funny show. There have been times as a castmate where I’ve been backstage and I’ve just laughed so much,” Long said.

He added that everyone in the production is extremely talented, from the performers who captivate the audience to the choreographers that make musical numbers come to life.

It’s also the first time Averi Rojas (Princess Winnifred) is stepping into the spotlight with a main role. She caught the “theatre bug” in middle school during a production of Peter Pan, and performing arts have become an integral part of her life over the past five years.

“Putting on the show is fun, and it’s what we’re here to do, but the audience doesn’t see the behind the scenes from May to July. This is my family. This is my home,” Rojas said. “It’s an escape from reality and a way to express yourself and get away from the stresses of the real world. It’s very overlooked. Personally, I think this is just as important, if not more important, than football or any other sport.”

Ashley Toups has a similar view on the importance of performing arts. Toups plays Lady Larkin, and the sappy, puppy love demeanor she portrays on stage was a fun new role to explore.

“I feel like it helps you as an individual. This is a healthy outlet to step away from the real world for a little bit and play pretend. I can channel my other emotions into my performance,” Toups said. “What sets this production apart is that we haven’t done a show in a while, and also the new faces that we have this year. There’s a lot of energy and a lot of love on the stage, and you can see it in every performance and every show.”

Rojas said the humor in “Once Upon a Mattress” can also offer valuable life lessons to young and impressionable audience members.

“Anyone can be a princess. If even a moat swimming swamp girl can be a princess, you sure can,” Rojas said with a laugh.

For more information, please visit or call Danielle Ordoyne at 225-439-4831.