CROCKETT -- John Swett High School will deliver its grandest-ever musical theater production, complete with a live orchestra, for four days starting Thursday.

The musical play "Once Upon A Mattress" -- which opened off-Broadway in 1959, then moved to Broadway and eventually to television -- is loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's tale "The Princess and the Pea." It marked the Broadway stage debut of Carol Burnett, later of television fame, who originated the role of Princess Winnifred.

"Once Upon A Mattress" is about the farcical tribulations of a lovelorn, medieval prince in search of a bride, with characters that include a meddlesome, talkative queen, a mute king, a jester, and a large supporting cast that includes dukes, knights, ladies-in-waiting and servants.

Joseph Lewis, from left, Marissa Cabatingan and Miles Smith rehearse a scene from John Swett High School’s upcoming production of the Broadway
Joseph Lewis, from left, Marissa Cabatingan and Miles Smith rehearse a scene from John Swett High School's upcoming production of the Broadway musical "One Upon a Mattress," Sunday, April 14, 2013 in Crockett, Calif. (D. Ross Cameron/Staff)

The multidisciplinary tour de force involves the school's music and drama departments, which have been rehearsing since January; the wood shop, which is building the sets and props; the art department, which is painting the scenery; and the multimedia class, responsible for marketing and promotion.

"The costumes, sets, props, and drops have all been taken up a notch, and we are hopeful that this production will really knock the socks off our audience," said Vincent Pitzulo, the school's music director.

All of the music is live, performed by a 22-piece orchestra with strings, brass, winds and percussion.

Students also organized car washes and other fundraisers to finance the production.


Advertisement

"The students have taken ownership of every aspect of this production" Pitzulo said.

A theater studies class was added to the curriculum this school year, and the production team added a choreographer and a lighting designer, he said.

Pitzulo is co-director of the musical with Dallis Craft, who teaches English and theater studies at John Swett High. Pitzulo has had a long professional career as a percussionist with numerous symphony and pop orchestras and as a performer, conductor and director in numerous theater performances. Craft also is a professional musician performing with various bands and orchestras.

Fully a quarter of the school's student population is directly involved in the production of "Once Upon A Mattress," said school board President Jerry Parsons.

Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760. Follow him at Twitter.com/tomlochner

IF you go
What: "Once Upon A Mattress"
Where: John Swett High School Auditorium, 1098 Pomona St., Crockett
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: Adults $15; students $10
For more information, contact school board President Jerrold "Jerry" Parsons at jparsons@jsusd.org or 510-703-9862