"Once Upon A Mattress," will be the annual production of Zion Opera Workshop in Lehighton on March 4, 5, and 6.

This is the 41st annual musical by the community theater. It will be staged in Smith Hall of Zion United Church of Christ Lehighton

Show times all three nights are 7:30 p.m. This year, a matinee will be held on Saturday, March 6, at 2 p.m.

"Once Upon A Mattress," which takes place in a fictional medieval kingdom, was written as an adaptation to the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale "The Princess and the Pea."

The show is directed by Dave Zimmerman with music direction by Brad Cressley.

Having the lead roles as Queen Aggravaine and King Sextimus are veteran performers Michelle Stoudt and Bob Fatzinger.

Also starring in the production are Mindy Muffley as Princess Winnifred and Michael Muffley as Prince Dauntless. The cast of characters also include minstrel, a wizard, a jester, knights , and ladies.

Tickets can be obtained by any member of the Workshop or at the church office.

As the show opens the Minstrel sings of the original story of the "Princess and the Pea," also known as "Many Moons Ago."

A major crisis occurs when the leading knight of the realm, Sir Harry, discovers that his girlfriend, Lady Larken, is pregnant. Though Larken says that she will run away so he will never have to face embarrassment and the loss of his station, Sir Harry decides that he will set out to find a princess himself

The King discovers Larken's pregnancy and pantomimes this to his confidantes, the Minstrel and the Jester. He tells them to not say a word, but they both are more worried about the King letting it slip, because even though he's mute, he can still communicate ("The Minstrel, the Jester, and I"). Later, the Queen, assisted by her Wizard sidekick, design a test for Winnifred based on something they are sure she hasn't got at all - "Sensitivity." They will place a tiny pea beneath twenty thick downy mattresses. If Winnifred is unable to sleep due to the pea, then she will be sensitive enough to marry Dauntless.

Meanwhile, Winnifred tells Dauntless and the ladies in waiting about her home in the swamp ("The Swamps of Home") and meets the King, and they immediately like each other. Then, after spilling a flower vase, Winnifred is caught cleaning the mess by Lady Larken who mistakes her for a chambermaid. Soon Harry gets mad at Larken for her mistake and they get in a fight. Larken vows that she'll run far far away where she'll never see him again.

It's a play loaded with twists and turns and humor and complexities.

This marks the second time that Zion Opera Workshop is presenting "Once Upon a Mattress." It was staged by the group in 2000 and drew large crowds.

Zion Opera Workshop was formed by Paul Smith, the retired music director of Zion United Church of Christ, as a non-denomination theater group.