Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Photos: Joey Sorge, Sydney Marie Hawes, Andy Umberger and More in Phoenix Theatre’s World Premiere of “When You Wish: The Story of Walt Disney,” through June 12

Joey Sorge as Walt Disney. Photo: Phoenix Theatre/Matt Chesin

Joey Sorge as Walt Disney. Photo: Phoenix Theatre/Matt Chesin

Broadway vet Joey Sorge (Nice Work If You Can Get It, How To Succeed In Business…, The Drowsy Chaperone, Thoroughly Modern Millie, 2001 revival of Follies) is currently staring as the title character in Phoenix Theatre’s world premiere of When You Wish: The Story of Walt Disney!, featuring Book, Music and Lyrics by Dean McClure and helmed by Larry Raben. The production opened last night, after beginning previews on May 18, and will continue through June 12, 2016.

Produced by Craig Ehrlich, the world premiere of When You Wish: The Story of Walt Disney! is the culmination of The Caleb Reese Festival of New Plays and Musicals, and features choreography by Lee Martino, Musical Direction by Alan Ruch and Dramaturge by Pasha Yamotahari.   Phoenix Theatre is located at 100 E. McDowell Rd. Phoenix, AZ 85004. Tickets start at $30 and are available for purchase by phone at 602.254.2151 or by visiting phoenixtheatre.com.

Joey Sorge as Walt Disney, Sydney Maries Hawes as Lillian Disney. Photo: Phoenix Theatre/Matt Chesin

Joey Sorge as Walt Disney, Sydney Maries Hawes as Lillian Disney. Photo: Phoenix Theatre/Matt Chesin

When You Wish: The Story of Walt Disney! stars Joey Sorge as Walt Disney, a dreamer who suffers setbacks but perseveres with the support of his business partner and brother, Roy played by Andy Umberger, his friend Ub Iwerks played by Matthew Malecki and his adoring wife, Lillian played by Sydney Marie Hawes.

The journey begins in 1908 with six-year-old Walt drawing cartoons at home and concludes with his biggest dream of all, the opening of Disneyland in 1955. Roy serves as the story’s narrator, taking us on a journey of struggle, heartache, and enormous triumph — these moments including the opening and bankrupt closing of Laugh-0-Gram Studios in Kansas City; the formation of Disney Brothers Studios in Hollywood; the marriage of Walt and Lillian Disney; the departure of his best and closest animator Ub Iwerks; and the creation of a mouse named Mickey, which ignited his career and the legacy that would forever be Walt Disney.

The cast also features Ross Nemeth (Young Walt), TJ Rossi (Young Walt), Trisha Ditsworth (Edna), Tyler Gasper (Rudy/Animator #2), James Gish (Animator #1), Debby Rosenthal (Flora), Brian Sweis (Hug/Animator #3). Jose Amor, Jennifer Brasuell, Lucas Coatney, Kate E. Cook, Carly Grossman, Norman Large, Taylor Shubert, D. Scott Withers, Sarah Weichman round out the ensemble.

The creative and design team includes Almir Lejlic (Sound  Designer), Michael J. Eddy (Lighting Designer), Robert Kovach (Scenic Designer), Jon Infante (Video Designer), Cari Smith (Costume designer), Kelly Yurko (Hair/Make-up designer), Tyler Weldon (Props Designer), Mark Reynolds (Director of Production), Karla Frederick (Associate Production Manager), Samantha Monson (Stage Manager) and Katherine Roll Lang (Assistant Stage Manager).

The Company. Photo: Phoenix Theatre/Matt Chesin

The Company. Photo: Phoenix Theatre/Matt Chesin

T.J. Rossi as Young Walt and Debby Rosenthal as Flora. Photo: Phoenix Theatre/Matt Chesin

T.J. Rossi as Young Walt and Debby Rosenthal as Flora. Photo: Phoenix Theatre/Matt Chesin

Trisha Hart Ditsworth as Edna and Andy Umberger as Roy Disney. Photo: Phoenix Theatre/Matt Chesin

Trisha Hart Ditsworth as Edna and Andy Umberger as Roy Disney. Photo: Phoenix Theatre/Matt Chesin

The Company. Photo: Phoenix Theatre/Matt Chesin

The Company. Photo: Phoenix Theatre/Matt Chesin

Andy Umberger as Roy Disney and Joey Sorge as Walt Disney. Photo: Phoenix Theatre/Matt Chesin

Andy Umberger as Roy Disney and Joey Sorge as Walt Disney. Photo: Phoenix Theatre/Matt Chesin

The Company. Photo: Phoenix Theatre/Matt Chesin

The Company. Photo: Phoenix Theatre/Matt Chesin

The largest producing regional theatre company in Arizona, Phoenix Theatre offers more programs and experiences than any other. With over 400 performances on multiple stages and thriving education and outreach programs, more than 100,000 citizens are inspired every year.

A founding member of the Central Arts District, Phoenix Theatre is in its 96th season and is more committed than ever to advancing arts in the Valley. Phoenix Theatre is currently producing eight remarkable productions in the Mainstage Theatre and Hormel Theatre and the Caleb Reese Festival of New Plays and Musicals is in its 18th consecutive year. Additionally, Phoenix Theatre’s outreach and educational programs continue to serve children and adults of all ages.

Q & A with Joey Sorge, Star of Phoenix Theatre’s World Premiere of “When You Wish: The Story of Walt Disney,” May 18 through June 12

Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers,  musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Examiner.comJade Magazine and Playbill.com.

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