Get Cultured — December 22, 2015 at 11:45 am

“Once Upon A Mattress” is Forgettable but Definitely Entertaining



The holidays are here once again my dear readers, what a grand time to be in the city. Crowded streets full of tourists that can’t walk for some reason and somehow without communicating create an explosive mess of our city in unison. The stores we love can’t barely be inhabited and every night Uber surges its prices. But the one thing that stands out is the holiday sprit that permeates out of every street. The familiar becomes the trend, the smell of homemade pastries are the hip thing to search, and spending time with your clan is in the foreseeable future. But most importantly, there’s also the entertainment! Through most of the year, people try to find the new polished product ready to blow up or the next up-and-coming artists that will allow you to see their work first. Not during the holidays! Everyone yearns the old comfortable stuff during this time of year. The Rockettes take over Radio City, Elf has its residence in MSG, and John “Lypsinka” Epperson has a play on the Lower East Aide. And this year he is joined by Jackie Hoffman for the revival of “Once Upon A Mattress” playing at the Abrons Arts Center, which manages to be the equivalent of that hilariously funny uncle you wouldn’t go to the store with, because he may be great with family, but in public his jokes are a little behind the times.

The show itself is a good old musical. Nothing more, nothing less. Big numbers, fancy costumes, a paper-thin story that is easy to tell but hard to choreograph, you know the routine. And for the most part it works, I enjoyed myself. I got out of there with plenty of laughter had, and a smile on my face, but that’s it. I didn’t get out of there raving about what I just saw. Didn’t get out of there with a second thought about the production. All I knew is something worked and something didn’t. So since I was there to review the show, I figured I should figure it out. It didn’t take me long to realize why I wasn’t entirely satisfied as I thought from my laughter earlier. I didn’t feel satisfied because not one moment of that production felt organic. Every step taken was with the hand of the director on top, moving the actor like a piece on a chessboard. Not for a moment I felt an actor was free to explore the stage and its world.

Another hiccup is the focus on John “Lypsinka” Epperson as the Queen. I get it, this is his thing, and he does it really well. I liked him last year in “Christmas With The Crawfords” and I liked him this year too. How could I not? It was the same performance! But it wasn’t the same love for the role. He seems more distant, less explosive. Relying often on the same hand tricks and barely ever talking to another person on stage, he spent the whole running time hosting the audience. But this is not an event, and his character is part of a larger story which required that the other actors received his attention. Jackie Hoffman on the other hand was brilliant. Every time she was on stage the whole production will lit up, and John will come alive.

I don’t want to take away from everybody else in the production. The performers did a great job making this traditional Christmas dinner into another success, the problem is that the hilarious uncle (talking about the show here!) is just a little bit older, and as you get older, you start to notice how his jokes are always the same. But then again, during this time of the year that is exactly what you need.

Out of 4 stars:


Twisted Talk: Have you seen “Once Upon A Mattress” before? Have you ever seen a ‘Lypsinka’ show before? Discuss below!


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