Murder mystery, pea liven up local stage

By: Eileen Wilson Telegraph Correspondent
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Everyone loves a good tale, and when it comes to retelling fairy tales, Hans Christian Andersen was one of the best. But Broadway has a certain knack of taking entertaining tales, and making them even better. “Once Upon a Mattress,” adapted from Andersen’s tale, “The Princess and the Pea,” which he published in the mid 1800s, is a perfect example of a spirited story given the Broadway musical treatment. The show won a Tony award in 1996 for the Best Revival of a Musical, and the show’s popularity has endured ever since. “It’s part of our family series, and it’s a musical that our audience just loved,” said Connie Mockenhaupt, the company’s artistic director and CEO, of the show’s opening weekend. “Fans think the show is very funny.” An excellent cast helps. Mockenhaupt prides herself on bringing the highest caliber performers to Sutter Street, something she has been doing since the theater opened six years ago. And selecting shows is almost as fun as performing them. “We take a survey and have a committee who reads and evaluates plays,” Mockenhaupt said. Princess Winifred and Prince Dauntless the Drab, will charm the audience in this story that includes comedy, courtship and, ultimately, comeuppance. While “Once Upon a Mattress” is a musical, Sutter Street’s “Musical Comedy Murders of 1940” is not. “It’s a murder mystery about people who are actually writing a musical,” Mockenhaupt said. The show, which also enjoyed a Broadway run, is set in a mansion that has more hidden passages than Hogwarts, and as many dastardly characters, too. “People are loving this show — it’s a hilarious show that is suited to audiences of all ages,” Mockenhaupt said. The show opened July 22. Bodies, weapons, sleight of hand and plenty of secrets populate the comedy that director Michael Coleman said he couldn’t resist bringing to Sutter Street. “I saw the show in college, and the mystery and the comedy aspect stayed with me for more than 20 years,” he said. “This is a mystery that people will have fun trying to figure out — and so far, no one has figured it out, yet.” While Coleman appreciates dramas and shows with “deep meanings,” he said comedy is important in today’s society. “I want to go to the theater to escape. I want to enjoy something light, something fluffy. My goal is to present something that’s just incredibly fun,” he said. And “Musical Comedy Murders” is certainly that. “Who should see the show? A. Anybody who loves mystery. B. Anybody who loves comedy. And C. and D. Anybody — period,” Coleman said. * * * SUTTER STREET THEATRE Where: Sutter Street Theatre, 717 Sutter St., Folsom Info: ‘Once Upon a Mattress”‘ When: 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Aug. 14 Cost: $17 general, $15 SARTA and seniors, $13 children 12 and under ‘Musical Comedy Murders of 1940’ When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday through Aug. 28 Cost: $23 general, $21 SARTA and seniors, $18 students, $15 children 12 and under