Stunt instructor Pat Potochick shows Liz Kagan, who plays Princess Winifred, and Caleb Marquez, who plays Sir Studley, how to do a flip during a March 8 rehearsal for “Once Upon a Mattress” at Harrison High School.

Stunt instructor Pat Potochick shows Liz Kagan, who plays Princess Winifred, and Caleb Marquez, who plays Sir Studley, how to do a flip during a March 8 rehearsal for “Once Upon a Mattress” at Harrison High School.

Photo by Donna Dalziel


Harrison High presents last musical, ‘Once Upon a Mattress’

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published March 11, 2019

 Ebony Matthews, who plays Queen Aggravain, and Maxwell Martin, who plays Prince Dauntless the Drab, practice during a March 8 rehearsal for “Once Upon a Mattress” at Harrison High School.

Ebony Matthews, who plays Queen Aggravain, and Maxwell Martin, who plays Prince Dauntless the Drab, practice during a March 8 rehearsal for “Once Upon a Mattress” at Harrison High School.

Photo by Donna Dalziel

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FARMINGTON HILLS — “Theater is family, and family is forever.”

That remark — said off the cuff by a Harrison High School junior — will be emblazoned on the Harrison High School theater musical T-shirts for their final production, “Once Upon a Mattress.”

“We can teach theater to anyone until we are blue in the face, but until someone develops themselves in the character and respects what they are doing and respects those around them, the character won’t appear, and these kids have done such a good job,” director Sue Cobb said. “We do become a family, and we’re the place where we do have a lot of misfits and kids who might not fit in other places, and they fit in here, and they fit in really, really well.”

While the final production — to be staged at 7:30 p.m. March 21-22, and at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. March 23 in the HHS auditorium, 29995 W. 12 Mile Road — signifies the end of an era, you can’t get rid of the musical’s cast and crew that easily when the closes before the 2019-20 school year.

“It is bittersweet. It feels a little empty for Dean and me,” Cobb said of her co-director husband on the phone just before a March 7 rehearsal at the school. She added that students have asked how to keep in touch with her, and she said they’ll make it happen. “The Red Robin in Novi — we can always meet there; always make that our meeting place.”

Before the curtains close for the last time on the stage that was well-known in the community for nearly 50 years, the production cast and crew of about 90 students and alumni are busying themselves practicing for the musical about a fractured take on the fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea,” according to a press release.

Because of an unhappy curse, King Sextimus, played by HHS student Ben Corsi, is unable to speak. His bullish wife, Queen Aggravain, played by HHS student Ebony Matthews, rules the kingdom with an iron fist to try to keep Prince Dauntless the Drab — played by HHS student Maxwell Martin — single. She won’t allow him to marry unless a princess can pass her tests, the release states. Twists and turns lead to Princess Winnifred the Woebegone, played by HHS student Elizabeth Kagan.

Matthews, a senior, said her character wants to keep her son all to herself.

“My character is very angry — almost never smiling,” said Matthews, who herself is gregarious and loves to smile. “Playing this role is very hard.”

“She’s smiling now — you can’t stop her,” Cobb said, laughing, with Matthews nearby.

Matthews added that she has to yell at people in character without cracking a smile, and the Cobbs “make it easy” for her to get into character by guiding her along the way.

“Everyone is so nice and so supportive, and we’re like a big family,” Matthews said, adding that this is her second year in a production at Harrison.

Kagan, also a senior, said her character eventually gets married to a prince.

“Winifred is very outgoing, a little bit of a comedian,” she said.

Kagan likes to “crack a lot of jokes,” but her character “has a lot more guts” than she does.

“As much as I like to take risks, I am not always able to do so,” she said. This is Kagan’s first musical at Harrison, though she has done four other plays there.

“Kind of strange to think that in the fall I won’t be doing this again,” she said, adding that the Cobbs have “outdone themselves” on and off the stage.

Cobb said the final musical production “is bittersweet,” because she wants to transition with all of her students as they leave, “but it can’t happen” because not all of her students, like the seniors, are graduating — some are going on to different schools and new groups of friends.

She said she and her husband met on the Harrison stage in 1986, “a million years ago,” when she was in a combined community play, which he directed.

After the final curtain call, she said, they might officially go into retirement.

“Harrison ... holds a very special place for Dean and me,” she said, adding that “all these years later,” through marriage and life, the show has gone on. “We met here, even though we worked at North Farmington (High School), (and) we’re ending here at Harrison.”

Tickets cost $12 for students and seniors 60 and older, and $15 for adults.

Tickets can be purchased at the door; through the school box office at (248) 888-6274; and during all school lunches, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m., starting March 18.

To learn more about Farmington Public Schools, go to www.farmington.k12.mi.us.

Call Staff Writer Sherri Kolade at (586) 498-1046.

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