Theatre review: Master Class

Fresh from Broadway with three of the original cast, this play focusing on the masterclasses given by the opera diva Maria Callas to fledgling singers is very much a star vehicle for Tyne Daly (still best known for playing Mary Beth Lacey in the famous cop series of the 1980s).

Callas, in the 1970s, had lost her voice by this time but still displayed verve, wit and energy.  Part of this play focuses on the classes but our eyes are always on Daly, who expertly works the audience to her advantage.  The remainder is set in a memory of La Scala, with the recordings of the real Maria Callas showing what a wonderful singer she was, as her later self shares memories of her childhood, affair with Aristotle Onassis, early marriage to a much older man, and life’s disappointments.

On a limited run at the Vaudeville Theatre until April, this play is written by Terrence McNally, directed by Stephen Wadsworth, and features (alongside Daly in the lead) Jeremy Cohen as the pianist, Gerard Carey as the stagehand, and Dianne Pilkington, Naomi O’Connell, and Garrett Sorenson as the student singers.  They sing well, but they are not the focus.

Master Class is enjoyable as a one-woman show with characters in the fringes.  In an odd way it reminded me of Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell, which centred around the hard-drinking journalist and his social pastimes, and former lovers.