Inspired by world-renowned Opera diva Maria Callas’ magnificent JuiIliard Academy master class series, Terrence McNally’s Tony Award-winning play spotlights the tour-de-force artist and vulnerable woman known as La Divina, as she relentlessly coaxes, prods, and edifies her young students, motivating them to give the performances of their lives, while revealing her humor, her demons and her genius.
Within moments of the opening scene of Master Class, Ms Callas, (Carolyn Hennessy) also known as “La Divina”, instructs the audience not to applaud, telling them “It’s work.” She selects a member of the audience, that cleverly serves as the rest of the class, and tells her she doesn’t have “The Look”, and needs to get a signature look to be noticed.
Her first student, awestruck Sophie de Palma (Soprano Maegan McConnell) is interrupted with her very first note, and is soon quaking with fear and intimidated by the diva, who both insults and admires her. It soon becomes apparent that with each pupil this pattern of insults, admiration and interruptions is repeated—with the diva’s assurance that, “It’s not about me!”
Her second student, Anthony Candolino (Tenor Landon Shaw ll), appears cocky and self-assured, and freely admits he is after fame and fortune. After heated verbal sparring he sings marvelously and ultimately wins La Divina’s praise.
Whilst being wickedly entertaining, in some cringe-worthy scenes Ms Callas mercilessly berates and criticizes everyone, and excoriates her students. She asks her third pupil, Sharon Graham (Soprano Aubrey Trujillo Scarr), attired in a gorgeous evening gown, whether she is going somewhere after class, and says, “Never wear a dress like this before midnight!”
The pupils don’t respond well to the abuse and the consequence of her caustic remarks is surprising! As a hypercritical perfectionist she demanded the same of her students, stating, “If I’ve been harsh it’s because I’m harsh with myself!” In one moment of biting sarcasm she says, “This will make the newspapers—Callas hurts student’s feelings!”
In some riveting moments Callas retreats into a personal monologue, recalling memories—of her painful childhood as an unattractive fat girl who rose from poverty to fame and wealth, her failed marriage and an affair with Greek millionaire Aristotle Onassis—who left her for Jaqueline Kennedy—the mockery and public humiliation, as well as the accolades she received as a great operatic diva—perhaps the greatest of the 20th century!
La Divina Maria Callas, known for her temperamental behavior, always felt unloved, and only experienced real happiness when performing onstage before adoring audiences. Her career ended rather soon and she died at age 57, in 1977.
Hennesy, in a tour-de-force performance positively transfixes with a formidable volume of powerfully passionate words, movements, gestures and elegance. The fabulous arias performed by Sopranos McConnell and Tujillo Scarr, and Tenor Landon Shaw ll, reach thrilling heights and standards, and the piano accompanist Manny (Roy Abramsohn) exceeds excellence.
Great script by Terrence McNally and Directing by Dimitri Toscas, and kudos to the entire production team. Highly recommended!
Garry Marshall Theatre provides innovative performances, education opportunities, and storytelling activities for over 20,000 people a year. The critically acclaimed and Ovation Award-winning 130-seat theatre was founded in 1997 asthe Falcon Theatre by Hollywood legend Garry Marshall. Reestablished as the Garry Marshall Theatre in 2017, the theatre continues to cultivate new artists and experiences that spark ideas and build community.
“Garry Marshall believed that gathering people together to share a live storytelling experience was one of the most important ways we process our lives,” says Artistic Director Dimitri Toscas. “We are proud to continue that philosophy into the modern space of American theatre and establish our stage as a community stomping ground for exploration and education.”
ALL PHOTOS BY CHELSEA SUTTON
Master Class By Terrence McNally
Directed by Dimitri Toscas
Starring Carolyn Hennessy with Roy Abramsohn, Jeff Campanella, Maegan
McConnell, Landon Shaw II, Aubrey Trujillo-Scarr
WHEN: September 22 – October 22, 2017
Previews: September 20 and 21, 2017
Press Openings: September 22, 2017 at 8pm and September 23 at 2pm
Thursdays, Fridays at 8pm; Saturdays at 2pm and 8pm; Sundays at 3pm
WHERE: Garry Marshall Theatre, 4252 W Riverside Drive, Burbank, CA 91505
Box Office: (818) 955-8101