Call her Princess Carol - Carol Burnett is practically royalty
This Queen of Comedy started out as a princess!
Image: The Everett Collection
It's almost an affront that Carol Burnett can't add the official title of "princess" to her list of accomplishments. That's right, folks — our very own funny mistress earned a crown at the start of her career.
It all started with a pea, a mattress and Carol Burnett playing the original princess of the ponds. Or marshlands.
Once Upon a Mattress is a Broadway musical that retells that story of the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale, "The Princess and the Pea." In this rendition, the kingdom is awaiting a princess to marry Prince Dauntless, but no young lady seems to measure up to Queen Aggravain's expectations. That is, until Princess Winnifred the Woebegone arrives from the northern marshlands to give it her best go. All she has to do is pass the Queen's test of feeling a tiny pea underneath twenty mattresses and a princess she will be.
While many have seen Burnett in the 1964 made-for-TV movie version of the musical, they often forget that Burnett is the originator of the role of Princess Winnifred.
The show opened on May 11, 1959, at the Phoenix Theatre, an Off-Broadway space that lived at E. 12th Street and Second Avenue in the East Village of New York City, New York. The show ran for just shy of a year before transferring to the Alvin Theatre (now known as the Neil Simon Theatre) on the official stretch of street known famously as Broadway.
Burnett wowed audiences with her physical comedy in the show; such feats include a number in which she performs a series of the prior tests that the Queen ordained, or making her first appearance before the court after swimming the castle moat. When this is paired with farcical hit songs such as "Shy" and "The Swamps of Home," it's no wonder that Burnett was up for her first Tony award in the category of Best Leading Actress.
Who would have known that of all of her accomplishments, this one would pop up yet again?
In 2007, The Wonderful World of Disney released another made-for-TV movie version of the show that boasted the talents of great performers like Matthew Morrison and Zoey Deschanel. The most notable name, however, was that of Burnett yet again. She received a royal upgrade and took over the role of Queen Aggravain, yielding her original role to the hilarious Tracy Ullman.
The next time you hear Burnett referred to as the "Queen of Comedy," remember that she started off just like any other princess — singing, dancing, and swimming across moats.