WEST MILFORD-At 6:30 p.m. on a Friday night, when most school children are gleefully enjoying the start of another weekend, the cast and crew of West Milford High school's annual play "Once upon a Mattress" is just beginning a three-and-a-half hour practice. For the play's director and high school choral director Doug Heyburn it's nearing the culmination of his tenth consecutive student production and from the activity and splendor on stage the excitement of another year is far from waning. The Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale "The Princess and the Pea" was the inspiration for this version of "Once Upon A Mattress." As Heyburn explains, the choice of play this year is a big change in pace from last year's production of Brigadoon. "Last year's was a very dramatic show and this year we wanted something comic, a very zany comedy." As Heyburn's speaks his wife Maria stands on stage and reviews the hand-made costumes for each cast member. As the show's choreographer, Maria ensures everything is perfect for opening night. The Heyburn collaboration forms part of the huge effort by volunteer parents, including parents of former high school pupils, who kept working on shows long after their children left for college. "The entire production is eight weeks long starting just after the holiday break. We have 45 cast members, 25 stage crew, 25 painters, two seamstresses, 15 builders, there's easily 100 people working behind the scenes," Heyburn said. Anastasia Sailer plays the part of Lady Larken and is a veteran having performed in both Hello Dolly and Brigadoon in previous years. Sailer said of being part of the production, "All the cast are really like a family." As for being on stage Sailer said, "Sometimes it's scary but it's really fun." Mute King Sextimus is played by Mike Licalzi who has the task of performing without being able to speak in the play. Mike said of the rehearsals, "They're excellent. It's a lot of hard work, you have to be here every day after school. It's a little time consuming but in the end it's worth it." Licalzi's ambition after leaving high school is to remain in the spotlight but not as a Broadway actor. "When I graduate I want to be a stand up comedian. This prepares me for being in front of people. I have pages and pages of jokes at home and I want to try the clubs in New York City." Maura Tappen beamed at the prospect of another rehearsal. She plays the fearsome Queen Aggravain but shows little to compare in temperament to her character. "I love rehearsals. This is my favorite time of the year." Tappen also revels in the bright lights of being a performer "Oh, I love being on stage." Chorus member Andrew DeBaun performing in his first production spoke of the overwhelming influence being in the play has on him. "It's awesome. The school day goes really quickly, even when you're sick you still go to school because you don't want to miss practice." "The best compliment I get is from the people that say it's not like coming to a high school play, they get entertained, and that's the best." The show runs for four nights from Wednesday March 2 until Saturday March 5. Tickets are available from the high school by calling 973 697 1701 ext 720.