Flu and vocal problems prevented Elizabeth Ashley from playing Maria Callas in previews of Master Class in Toronto March 24-25, but understudy Marilyn Bogetich appeared in her place, with script in hand.
John Karastamatis of the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto told Playbill On-Line that it was hoped Ashley might be well enough for the March 26 show, but Bogetich is standing by just in case. The official press opening is March 30.
Bogetich, an American actress who was in the Chicago staging of Robert Falls' Death of a Salesman, has worked as an understudy on Ashley projects in the past. Karastamatis said the script was only referred to occasionally in the performances. He suggested the physical script isn't as out of place as it might seem since the concept of Terrence McNally's play is a classroom setting.
No shows were canceled, and theatregoers were allow to exchange tickets for another performance.
The Northlight Theatre-Columbia Artists Management production of McNally's Master Class, a fall 1998 hit at Northlight in Skokie, IL, already sang a day later than expected in Toronto, beginning March 24. Its original first preview date was March 23. A technical problem with the image projector was blamed for the delay. Performances continue to May 1.
The north-of-the-border move -- directed by Leonard Foglia instead of Northlight's original director, Peter Amster -- includes the new casting of Ashley as the late-career opera diva, Maria Callas. Foglia staged the Broadway Master Class productions starring Zoe Caldwell, Patti LuPone and Dixie Carter, and the national tour with Faye Dunaway.
(Meanwhile, Chicago actress Carmen Roman, who played the role in 1998 in Skokie and in its mini-tour to the East Coast, is committed to performing at American Theatre Company in Chicago in April.)
Recreating their Chicago-area Master Class performances will be Alexander Kariotis, Jeff Lewis, Melissa LaFrance and Frances Limoncelli. The designers remain Geoffrey Bushor (lights), Joe Cerqua (sound) and Mary Griswold (costumes).
Rehearsals began in New York in early March and continued the week of March 15 in Skokie before the company traveled to Ontario's historic Royal Alex.
Master Class -- McNally's theatrical conceit involving Maria Callas rating and berating vocal students at a fictional master class punctuated by theatrical monologues and memories -- was the second most popular production in the history of Northlight. McNally won a Best Play Tony Award for Master Class in 1996.
After the successful Skokie run, Northlight partnered with Columbia Artists Management and shipped the Amster-directed staging out for a brief tour to The DuPont Playhouse Theatre in Wilmington, DE., and Proctors Theatre in Schnectady, NY.
Ashley appeared on Broadway in The Highest Tree, Take Her She’s Mine with Art Carney, Barefoot in the Park with Robert Redford, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Skin of Our Teeth, Caesar and Cleopatra with Rex Harrison and Agnes of God with Geraldine Page and Amanda Plummer.
Among her film credits are "The Carpetbaggers," "Rancho Deluxe" with Jeff Bridges, "Coma" with Michael Douglas, "Paternity" with Burt Reynolds and Todd Solondz’ recent independent picture, "Happiness."
TV viewers know her from the Burt Reynolds sitcom, "Evening Shade."
Director Foglia recently directed Wait Until Dark on Broadway. He is the resident director of off-off Broadway's The Barstow Group in New York. He and Elizabeth Ashley are collaborating on a new play called If Memory Serves.
The 1,400-seat Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto is at 260 King St. West. Tickets are $26.50 (Cdn.) to $76.50 (Cdn.). For information, call the Royal Alexandra Theatre box office at (416) 372-1212 or (800) 461 3333.