Newtown, Connecticut, was the scene of one of the most
hideous mass slaughters in American history. Driving into this quaint New
England town, it is impossible to miss the sad reminders of that horror, cutout
angels along the roadside and tributes of sympathy from around the world in the
But through January 27, 2012, that same town hall is being
treated to a gentle reminder that the world can be a better place and that,
yes, it is possible to have magical days.
"Small World: A
Fantasia" by Frederick Stroppel is receiving its world premiere in Newtown
courtesy of Stray Kats Theatre Company, which mounts its productions in an
upstairs meeting room at Edmond Town Hall, with minimal sets and
In "Small World,"
Stroppel imagines a series of meetings between Walt Disney and Igor Stravinsky
that begin when "Fantasia" is still in production and end in the afterlife. There
Walt and Iggy (as Walt calls him in the play) can at last put their on-again,
off-again battles to rest and contemplate their legacies.
Stravinsky and Walt did meet. Once. And it didn't go well.
Invited to see a screening of "Fantasia,"
Stravinsky was outraged by what the studio had done to his Sacre de Printemps. In "Hello,
," Craig Brown quotes Stravinsky: "I remember someone offering me a score, and when I said I had
my own, that someone saying, "But it is all changed." It was indeed. The
instrumentation had been improved by such stunts as having the horns play their
glissandi an octave higher in the Danse de la terre. The order of
pieces had been shuffled, too, and the most difficult of them eliminated,
though this did not save the musical performance, which was execrable." The two
also differed on what Walt had promised for the rights. Walt said $5,000. Iggy
of this fascinating scrap of history, Stroppel has spun a highly enjoyable and
very funny . . . well, fantasia is a good word for it. You don't have to know
very much about Disney history to find this play enjoyable. I did a quick
survey at intermission and found I was the only one who could be described as a
"Disney buff." But people were clearly enjoying the show, and for anyone steeped
in Disney lore the piece is filled with gems.
Copyright Simon & Shuster. All rights reserved
especially like the bit when the volcanically outraged Stravinsky threatens
legal action and Walt replies with a smile, "Oh, I wouldn't tangle with my
the heart of the dispute is their competing visions of art. Stravinsky the
tortured artiste struggling for some sort of ultimate truth, the audience be
damned, and Walt, the showman, creating new forms of both art and entertainment
in which the reaction of the crowd and the box office receipts are the only
true arbiters of success.
is riding high in the first scene, but when next the two antagonists meet their
roles seem to have changed. Walt is down in the dumps following the poor
showing of "Fantasia" and Stravinsky, resplendent in tennis togs, has gone
Hollywood ("Call me Iggy!"). He's drunk the show biz Kool Aid to the extent
that he's pitching Walt on using another of his scores. Walt instantly sees the
ploy for what it is: Another player trying to cut a deal to fund his lifestyle.
(L to R) Robert Resnikoff as Igor Stravinksy andScott Bryce as Walt Disney
"You could go to infinity!" says Stravinsky, urging Walt to be bold in his choice of
beyond," agrees Walt, who never loses faith in his own creative visions even
when he has to cut corners.
creating a whole new aesthetic in 'Dumbo,'"
he tells Iggy. "Cutting out all the extraneous stuff, just focusing on the
characters and the action."
it's cheap," Stravinsky notes acidly.
in the afterlife (is it heaven or is it hell?), the two men have a chance to
consider the lives they've lived. The newly arrived Stravinsky is horrified to
realize that he can no longer compose new music. Walt who's been there a while
is more sanguine. "It's nice here," he says, "there's no pain," suggesting that
the ability to be a creator, an artist, is as much a curse as a gift.
if Stravinsky can no longer write new scores, he and Walt have no trouble
remembering one song from their days on the temporal plane. Their duet of "When
You Wish Upon A Star" may very well bring a tear to your eye.
(L to R) Robert Resnikoff and Scott Bryce in Walt's office in "Small World: A Fantasia"
does an excellent job of capturing what made (and continues to make) Walt
Disney such a linchpin of American culture - his cockeyed and endless optimism
and a steely resolve wrapped up in an aw-shucks demeanor. And behind the
laughs, the play has a fair bit to say about art, its commodification, and the
role of popular culture.
("As The World Turns") Bryce must share
equal credit in the success of the Disney character. He doesn't look
particularly like Walt but he brings a lightness of touch to the performance
that creates an utterly believable and ultimately irresistible Walt. Robert
Resnikoff, a well-known Connecticut Shakepearean actor, navigates Stravinsky's
journey from irate artist to Hollywood player and back again, with aplomb.
you are within driving distance of Newtown, do put this show on your calendar.
"Small World: A Fantasia" is performed Fridays and
Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm, through January 27 at the Edmond Town
Hall, 45 Main Street (Rte 25) in Newtown Connecticut. Tickets are $31 and
refreshments, including wine, are available before the show and at
intermission. The phone is (203) 514-2221.
can be purchased online, via PayPal, at www.straykatstheatrecompany.org
Walt as one-dimensional "showman" and show business mogul; Stravinsky as a similarly shallow "tortured artiste." Based on the description, it seems a superficial and inaccurate view of both Walt and Stravinsky.
No idea why people need to use Walt (or Stravinsky) as a vehicle for this kind of story. There are dozens of more accurate examples in Hollywood history.