Once Upon a Mattress, Emerald City Theatre Company, at the Apollo Theater. Director L. Walter Stearns gives this hour-long children's version of Mary Rodgers's musical the surefire Marx Brothers treatment. The story--Winnifred the Woebegone breaks a spell by swimming a castle moat, winning the love of Prince Dauntless the Drab--gets a vaudeville makeover. Here the mute King (Manny Capozzi) is dorky Harpo, the Wizard (Jamie Axtell) blithering Chico, the Jester (Aaron Graham) mischievous Groucho, and Queen Aggravain (Marssie Mencotti) a motormouth Margaret Dumont. Marika Mashburn isn't the belter that Carol Burnett proved herself in the original production, but she brings her own winsome dorkiness to witless Winnifred.
Of course, for many children the Marx Brothers references will be as obscure as the lobby sign that reads "Vagina-friendly merchandise on sale after the show" (referring to the other show on the Apollo stage). Still, they'll laugh at jokes far older than they are and guffaw at the slyly clowning "Spanish Panic" dance, choreographed by Katrina Williams. And it's always a treat to see how Winnifred passes "the princess and the pea" test to confirm her crush on Dauntless (cute Ben Lobpries). After the show the children can get autographs from the colorful characters. Just so they stay away from the vagina-friendly merchandise.