One of my favorite teachers was Madame Lyon, known to the rest of the world as Billy Lyon. She would click down the halls of old CHS in her heels and hose, looking entirely chic and tres francais. We only spoke French in the classroom and we all chose French names, mine Danielle, somehow devolved into Danielle De La Biere. Junior year, we ate only chocolate bars for lunch, not because they were good but because they paid for our French Club trip to Montreal.
Madame Lyon is returning to the Opera House, where she starred as the original Queen in “Once Upon a Mattress” 48 years ago. Other cast members from the 70s show are coming back including Ron Fought, Prince Dauntless the Drab, Nini Sherwood who played the bird, and Jeanette Bronson whose magic mirror mysteriously went up in smoke. Gerald Vilenski returns to Cheboygan to design sets after a 12 year hiatus. Midge Shaw is directing a Northland Players production for the first in five years.
“Once Upon a Mattress” was the first show Shaw directed for Northland Players 49 years ago. She is thrilled to do it again with new people, and at the same time bringing back some of the cast from the first play.
“It’s more than a community,” Shaw says. “Everybody gives up things to be in a show: family, work, free time. They bring joy when coming through the door. We meet people we would never know otherwise. Cast members spend four to six hours together almost every night for two months. This cast has people who have never acted on the stage, people who are acting regularly and some who are coming back after decades away. Each show forms its own unique family.”
Cast and crew step up like family to help each other out. Joanie Reed took over the choreography when no one else could be found. JerryLou Kania interrupted a move to Florida to help the singers. Marshall Beck made a birdcage and Vince Lumetta made the bed.
“Once Upon a Mattress” is a spoof on the fairytale of “the Princess and the Pea.” This cast, including an uncharacteristically silent Steve Brisson, is uproariously funny. You will need to see the play more than once because you will be laughing so hard you will miss some lines. Get tickets for two days!
Shaw is dedicating this show to all Northland Players over the years for all the love and energy they give to the community. And I can’t wait to see Madame Lyon at the Opera House again.
Show dates are Oct. 24 to 27th. $15 adults, $11 children, $12 for Seniors on Sunday (no, that’s not High School Seniors). Tickets are available at the Opera House 231-627-5841 or www.theoperahouse.org See you at the show!