Wish Upon A Star
an unauthorized intimate reflections with Walt Disney
A Review by Katrina K Guarascio
Wish Upon a Star, an unauthorized intimate reflections with Walt Disney, presented by Enchanted Rose Theater, written by Andy Mayo and directed by James Cady, is a humanizing take on a legend of entertainment. Set in a screening room in 1966, Vernon Poitras portrays Walt Disney who, while conducting a video will of sorts, takes the audience through the details of the building of the Disney empire and his own childhood.
The concept is based on a rumored movie that Disney made weeks before his death, where he speaks to animators and story men, not only to thank them for their labors, but also to urge them to create his final dream: EPCOT. Since the video was never found and is often denied, writer Andy Mayo takes it upon himself to create that video for us in this short play.
Poitras gave a wonderful portrayal of Disney in what essentially was an hour and a half monologue. Poitras looked and played the part perfectly requiring the audience to fall into his story without question. Despite being a one man show, the audience was held at attention, listening to his stories and feeling his trials and successes. He shifted with ease through the history of some of the most well known Disney stories, including Snow White, Steamboat Willie, Bambi, connecting with the audience and their own personal associations with the Disney catalog. By the time the transition to a more personal history of the man came, Poitras had hooked the audience making the character alive, visceral, and engaging. Truly, it was a wonderful performance.
One of the most memorable parts of the story was when Disney spoke of his creation of Fantasia, particularly the episode entitled The Apprentice. He claims that in the story he was the sorcerer, “Yensid” (Disney spelt backwards) but through his story, he realized he was not the great wizard who mentored Mickey and cleaned up his mess, but instead Mickey himself. He states is frustration, “Turns out I’m not the sorcerer, just a damned mouse.” He claims to be “a phantom of myself” entertaining a very universal and human feeling, How many of us have lost ourselves trying to become someone else?
While watching the performance there were some questions that roamed my mind. Not being a Disney historian, I didn’t know what aspect of the play were factual and what may have been incorporated for entertainment factors. Did Disney really hate Cinderellla? Did he really think of Fantasia as his masterpiece? Where the stories of his own childhood, telling stories of a youth that was cold, difficult, and so very relatable, true or simply for entertainment purposes? Where these stories based on facts? An internet search might answer all these questions, but as I left the theater I found myself completely uninterested in fact checking. The purpose of the play was not to give a Wikipedia biography of the man. It was to connect us as human beings. The great character became someone that reminds people of their own difficulties, their own exhausted efforts, their own happiness.
While listening to Poitras speak, he became less the infamous Disney and more the common man filled with simple regrets, different personas, dreams, and disappointments. He was my grandfather talking about his childhood paper route. He was my fellow artist disappointed at the failure of a project he cared so much about. He was a man who thought he was one thing, but turned out to be something else.
If writer Andy Mayo’s goal was to humanize the character whilst filling his audience with positive memories, he was successful. Set your history books and internet searches aside for this one and listen to the story of a legend who was really just a man.
See Wish Upon a Star at The Cell Theater (liveatthecell.com) December 2-3, 9-10 at 7:30 and December 4th & 9th at 2:00pm. Rated PG for adult language.