Tuesday, May 24, 2016

reviews - WHEN YOU WISH - Phoenix Theatre

Joey Sorge
photo: Phoenix Theatre / Matt Chesin Photography
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)
Click here for more information on this production that runs through June 12th.

“...As the title suggests, When You Wish tells of the early days of America’s most famous Midwestern boy who thought big with a seemingly unlimited imagination that eventually proved something we’ve always wanted to believe: dreams really do come true....Most of the story-telling conflicts of Walt’s rise to pioneer status occur in the show’s first half, culminating with the creation of a certain famous mouse and a big solo from Walt himself.  The second half is shorter with fewer songs and only a few hurdles for Disney to overcome before reaching the opening of the California theme park that closes the show.  It’s also here where the failings of McClure’s book and the overall production are evident.
.. director Larry Raben’s production does creative wonders when skirting around copyright issues. ..Without the ability to see Walt’s imagination come to life in the way we know how these characters look and the musical themes associated with them, the production can never fully satisfy.  It’s missing the Disney magic. McClure’s new score is enjoyable without being particularly memorable.  Often the songs, particularly the ballads, tend to evaporate the moment they conclude...Casting is good.   Andy Umberger’s Roy proves a solid center to the production while Joey Sorge’s Walt, despite several dialog stumbles on opening night, creates an image of Disney that audiences will easily recognize and relate...As theatrically presented, Disney’s professional life, while full of conflict as he tried to overcome often insurmountable odds to find funding and get his ideas off the ground, comes across as a surprisingly tame tale.......In an edited form with another re-write, plus permission from the Disney organization to use its imagery and musical themes, When You Wish could be the kind of show seen at the world wide Disney parks.  The way it tells Disney’s story, things may be uncomplicated but they fall right in line with the organization’s positive style..." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

"...While the story evokes the imagination, genius, and risk taking that Disney took in the first half of the 20th century, and the production has a capable cast and good creative aspects, the musical itself is saddled with an unimaginative score and a few hiccups in its storytelling....(Dean) McClure's script is nicely structured and uses the creation of Disneyland to bookend the early story of Walt and his brother Roy and the many setbacks the two had before Mickey Mouse, Snow White, and the Disney Studios made them into household names. ..However, there are several problems in the book. While Roy features somewhat as the narrator, his contributions should either be beefed up or eliminated as they currently only exist to occasionally tell us of things that happened that aren't shown on stage. Also, there is a major plot element about the distribution rights to Walt's earlier cartoons, including the possibility of a lawsuit or payoff, that we never see resolved, which leaves a big hole in the second act, especially since so much time is spent on the brothers finding people to distribute their cartoons. Also, it's unfortunate that McClure wasn't able to get the rights from the Walt Disney Company to use any images or video ...the way the show portrays the many successful films that followed Mickey Mouse are more in the style of a lackluster, bare bones Disney knock-off musical production. McClure's score also has a few shortcomings, with a number of the large scale ensemble songs not having many hooks or repeated motifs to register with the listener, and a few featuring lackluster orchestrations and unnecessary extended dance sequences....The main cast is quite good, with Joey Sorge finding a way to effectively show the many layers of Walt Disney...Larry Raben's direction keeps the focus on Walt's genius and his drive to get his ideas out there without being too schmaltzy....McClure's idea to create a musical based on Walt Disney is a good one, especially since not many people know about the struggle he and Roy had before they found success. With a little more focus and clarification of the book, beefing the score, and hopefully the contribution of the Disney Company, When You Wish could become a success."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

COMING SOON -Jennifer Haaland, Examiner.com (click here to read the complete review)

“When You Wish: The Story of Walt Disney,” a world-premiere musical at Phoenix Theatre, overflows with affection and admiration for its subject. ...Unfortunately, this feel-good celebration of an American icon is also woefully lacking in some other things that are needed if creator Dean McClure is to realize his dream of bringing “When You Wish” to Broadway: relatable characters, dramatic conflict and engaging dialogue....The heart of the story is the relationship between Walt and Roy, who serves as narrator. ...The problem, dramatically speaking, is that neither of these characters really change during the course of the show....this might be true enough to their real lives, but it doesn’t deliver the kind of growth and catharsis we expect in a narrative. But at least Walt and Roy emerge as actual characters, which can’t be said for any other role in the musical. ...Of course, a musical is as much about songs as story, and in this regard “When You Wish” shows some promise...Director Larry Raben and (especially) choreographer Lee Martino do their utmost to jazz up the plodding narrative....." Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic (click here to read the complete review)

"Splashy high-kicking musical numbers are the trademark of Phoenix Theatre, but in the case of Dean McClure's stab at a bio-musical on Walt Disney, all the glitz and splits can't compensate for its shortcomings in the telling of one of America's great Horatio Alger stories....Disney's life certainly had enough fodder on all counts on which to feed ...Notwithstanding McClure's intentions, much is left in the silo...a highly idealized and superficial portrait of the mogul of animated filmdom that leaves too many stones of character and relationship development unturned. ...If only enough time was given to fleshing out the salient moments of his life and the Disney of this play was as carefully etched and defined as the characters he created, there would be little hunger for more. There are gaps too that would be worth filling and moments of poignancy that would be worth revealing if a dance routine or two were sacrificed ...The Act II homage to the Disney classics from 1937 to 1955 ~ Snow White, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Bambi, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp ~ replete with a finely tailored cavalcade of associated characters, is a joyful plunge into nostalgia, albeit without the benefit of their iconic scores. For the uninitiated, there may be enough history here to satisfy ...For a few hours of easy entertainment and some sweet ballads, McClure's answer to his question may fit the bill. For the potential that remains in delivering Disney's life on a silver platter, one can only wish upon a star."  -Herbert Paine, Broadway World (click here to read the complete review)

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