You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Master Class

"Master Class," Terrence McNally's 1995 homage to turbulent opera diva Maria Callas, retains its bite in Wendy C. Goldberg's vivid new staging at the Paper Mill Playhouse.

Cast:
Maria Callas - Barbara Walsh Manny - Andrew Gerle Sophie - Lauren Worsham Stagehand - Ryan King Sharon - Sarah Uriarte Berry Tony - Mike McGowan

Master Class,” Terrence McNally’s 1995 homage to turbulent opera diva Maria Callas, retains its bite in Wendy C. Goldberg’s vivid new staging at the Paper Mill Playhouse. Credit is largely due to the grand display of fire and ice unleashed by Barbara Walsh, who stepped into the role of the Greek-American soprano on short notice after Kate Mulgrew withdrew.

The play’s action takes place on a rehearsal stage where the audience witnesses three stormy sessions with a trio of hapless but richly talented aspiring voice students. Callas, who stopped singing in 1965, taught her first class at Julliard in 1971 and conducted it with an iron hand. With glimpses of insight into her tortured personal life, she coaxes, prods and humiliates her students, who come under attack for posture, apparel, vocal projection and character evaluation.

Stately and handsome, Walsh (recently of the Broadway “Company” revival) is in full command as Callas, coming down to the stage apron for an incisive soliloquy at the close of each act. These are biographically vivid little setpieces wherein Callas reveals her soul, expounding on her passionate relationship with Aristotle Onassis, her quest for love, her dedication to her music and art, pride in her beauty and the 37 curtain calls she once received.

Walsh blends an acerbic, humorous edge with deep-seated passion and reckless abandon. With the real voice of Callas in the distance, she recites a spoken aria in reflective counterpoint, and the moment is enthralling.

A pert and pretty Sarah Uriarte Berry, who comes to class in a scarlet ball gown, sings a Verdi aria with stunning clarity. Offering a feisty, self-assured student, Uriarte Berry reveals the true glory of opera and its rewards. Lauren Worsham is more demure as meek, intimidated Sophie, who can barely get a single note out before Callas unleashes her wrath.

Mike McGowan plays complacent tenor Tony, who follows Callas’ rude dismissal with a fervent performance of “Recondita Armonia” from “Tosca.” Not only playing brilliantly, Andrew Gerle’s accompanist also reveals an impish sense of humor.

Goldberg has staged the play with a satisfying suggestion of eavesdropping intimacy. Designer Alexander Dodge’s spare concert stage is dominated by a Steinway grand that fades for a brief flashback into the towering image of La Scala’s lofty box seats.

Master Class

Paper Mill Playhouse, Millburn, N.J.; 1,200 capacity; $92 top

Production: A Paper Mill Playhouse presentation of a play in two acts by Terrence McNally. Directed by Wendy C. Goldberg. Music supervision, Andrew Gerle.

Creative: Set, Alexander Dodge; costumes, Anne Kennedy; lighting, Josh Epstein; sound, Randy Hansen; production stage manager, Barbara Reo. Opened, reviewed March 8, 2009. Runs through April 5. Running time: 2 HOURS, 5 MIN.

Cast: Maria Callas - Barbara Walsh Manny - Andrew Gerle Sophie - Lauren Worsham Stagehand - Ryan King Sharon - Sarah Uriarte Berry Tony - Mike McGowan

More Legit

  • Tracy Letts

    Stagecraft Podcast: Blackmail Led Tracy Letts to Acting (Listen)

    “Master Class,” Terrence McNally’s 1995 homage to turbulent opera diva Maria Callas, retains its bite in Wendy C. Goldberg’s vivid new staging at the Paper Mill Playhouse. Credit is largely due to the grand display of fire and ice unleashed by Barbara Walsh, who stepped into the role of the Greek-American soprano on short notice […]

  • profiles theatre Sexual Harassment

    Sexual Harassment in the Theater: How Chicago Fought Back

    “Master Class,” Terrence McNally’s 1995 homage to turbulent opera diva Maria Callas, retains its bite in Wendy C. Goldberg’s vivid new staging at the Paper Mill Playhouse. Credit is largely due to the grand display of fire and ice unleashed by Barbara Walsh, who stepped into the role of the Greek-American soprano on short notice […]

  • The Band's Visit

    Broadway Box Office: Promising Start for 'The Band's Visit'

    “Master Class,” Terrence McNally’s 1995 homage to turbulent opera diva Maria Callas, retains its bite in Wendy C. Goldberg’s vivid new staging at the Paper Mill Playhouse. Credit is largely due to the grand display of fire and ice unleashed by Barbara Walsh, who stepped into the role of the Greek-American soprano on short notice […]

  • Judd Apatow

    Judd Apatow on Weinstein Co. at Power of Women Luncheon: 'Shut It Down'

    “Master Class,” Terrence McNally’s 1995 homage to turbulent opera diva Maria Callas, retains its bite in Wendy C. Goldberg’s vivid new staging at the Paper Mill Playhouse. Credit is largely due to the grand display of fire and ice unleashed by Barbara Walsh, who stepped into the role of the Greek-American soprano on short notice […]

  • War Paint review

    Broadway Musical 'War Paint' Will Close Earlier Than Expected

    “Master Class,” Terrence McNally’s 1995 homage to turbulent opera diva Maria Callas, retains its bite in Wendy C. Goldberg’s vivid new staging at the Paper Mill Playhouse. Credit is largely due to the grand display of fire and ice unleashed by Barbara Walsh, who stepped into the role of the Greek-American soprano on short notice […]

  • Springsteen on Broadway opening

    'Springsteen on Broadway' Opening: Don't Clap Along With The Boss

    “Master Class,” Terrence McNally’s 1995 homage to turbulent opera diva Maria Callas, retains its bite in Wendy C. Goldberg’s vivid new staging at the Paper Mill Playhouse. Credit is largely due to the grand display of fire and ice unleashed by Barbara Walsh, who stepped into the role of the Greek-American soprano on short notice […]

  • SPRINGSTEEN ON BROADWAY

    Theater Review: 'Springsteen on Broadway' Is an Intimate, Living Autobiography

    “Master Class,” Terrence McNally’s 1995 homage to turbulent opera diva Maria Callas, retains its bite in Wendy C. Goldberg’s vivid new staging at the Paper Mill Playhouse. Credit is largely due to the grand display of fire and ice unleashed by Barbara Walsh, who stepped into the role of the Greek-American soprano on short notice […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content