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Bridge Players Theatre Company presents "Once Upon a Mattress"


By Zachary Klein, JerseyArts.com

originally published: 05/09/2024

Bridge Players Theatre Company presents "Once Upon a Mattress"

When Burlington-based Bridge Players Theatre Company originally planned to produce the classic 1959 musical "Once Upon a Mattress," it was 2020 and the pandemic disrupted the planned performances. Now, four years later, the company finally gets the chance to put on this production with many of the same cast members that were originally supposed to be in the show.

Even though many members of the cast have returned for the second-chance production, not all were able to come back. Thankfully, many of the actors cast in leading roles were able to return, making it easier for the show’s director, Brian S. Rothman.

“The first thing that I had done was any cast member who was valuable and wanted to come back,” Rothman said. “[They] Did not have to audition. This is and I will say that this is not our traditional casting.”

Bridge Players Theatre Company presents "Once Upon a Mattress"

Theatre Company’s production of “Once Upon a Mattress.”  Photo Courtesy Brian S. Rothman.

After the leads were cast, a grassroots effort was enacted to try and find ensemble members for the production. Rothman and Bridge Players Theatre Company President Gina Petti recruited many people they knew in the community to come join the show. Both have been involved in community theater for a long time, so they knew many people who may have been interested in acting in the show.

“I asked people I knew and said ‘Hey, people I've done shows with you know, would you like to come and join us?’” Rothman said. “I'm looking for ensemble members. I'm familiar with you and your talents. Come join us. I recruited people at work. I recruited some of the teachers I work with.”



 
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The network of people who have been involved with community theater shows how vibrant the community theater scene is in Southern New Jersey. Bridge Players Theatre Company is just one member of this scene, serving Burlington County and the surrounding areas.

The company was founded in the Burlington County city of Palmyra, right near the Tacony Palmyra Bridge that links New Jersey with Pennsylvania, hence the name Bridge Players. In 2001, however, the company moved 11 miles north to the city of Burlington, where there is another bridge – the Burlington-Bristol Bridge – so the name did not have to be changed. The company has provided programming to the Burlington community for the last 23 years and understands the nuances of programming theater for their community.

The non-profit organization aims to produce quality, affordable theater for the community they serve while also providing a variety of opportunities for involvement both on and off the stage. They produce about four shows per year, ranging from well-known, crowd-pleasing musicals to lesser-known works, so there is something for everyone.

“I think like an effort to maintain our affordability and still provide high-quality theater and we try to do a good mix of like classic stuff like ‘Once Upon a Mattress’ that will really have a wide appeal to stuff that's a little bit complicated,” Petti said. “Makes you think, a little more thought-provoking.”

As the company revived its production of “Once Upon a Mattress,” both Rothman and Petti knew that they would gather interest from the community since the show is so well-known. They said the show is perfect for a community theater to produce because of its large cast and easy-to-follow fairytale storyline.

Bridge Players Theatre Company presents "Once Upon a Mattress"

Jeff Rife (Jester), David Helgeson (King), Caitlin Figueroa (Lady Larkin) and Damon A. Strothers (minstrel) in Bridge Players Theatre Company’s production of “Once Upon a Mattress.”  Photo Courtesy Brian S. Rothman.

“We have a whole play selecting committee that selects the plays, so every potential director goes and approaches play reading and says I haven't played that I would like to direct,” Rothman said. “So I personally for myself as the director who submitted the show, it's a show that I fell in love with myself. I saw it on Broadway back in 1998. And it's just a fun show. It's a classic fairy tale.”



 
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Because Bridge Players is a non-profit organization with a limited marketing budget, the company relies on using social media to get the word out about its productions. They also place advertising in local newspapers and websites, but word-of-mouth is key to building a patron base. Repeat patrons from one show to the next also help the company find new audience members to come see their productions.

Another thing that Bridge Players is always looking for is volunteers, which are needed in all areas from production and stage management to ticket-takers and concession sellers. They will take anyone willing to lend a hand and help carry out the mission of this company.

“Volunteering is huge, so even just to run a show we need volunteers to do for a half so box office, concession sales and 50/50 sales,” Petti said. “Building of sets is a huge one right now. We lost a lot of our builders during the pandemic.”

“Once Upon a Mattress” began performances on May 3 at the Broad Street United Methodist Church, 36 East Broad St., Burlington, but remaining performances are on May 10, 11, 17 and 18 at 8 p.m. with matinees on May 11 and 12 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults and children under age 10 are $10. The company prefers ticket sales in advance on their website, www.bridgeplayerstheatre.com.

Bridge Players Theatre, Burlington, NJ | May 3-17 @ 3 PM and 8 PM. Click here for tickets.




About the author: Zachary Klein is a journalism major at Rider University who has a passion for telling stories about the arts and those who make them. He currently serves as a house manager at McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton and when he's not working there or on stories, he is probably at a theatrical production somewhere in the tri-state region. His work includes theater reviews and feature stories for Rider's college publication, The Rider News, as well as theater reviews for his own personal website, zachsfacts.com. Zach resides in Princeton with his family where he has lived for eighteen years. He is thrilled to join jerseyarts.com as a feature writer in his first professional writing credits.

Content provided by Discover Jersey Arts, a project of the ArtPride New Jersey Foundation and New Jersey State Council on the Arts.




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