With the announcement that Master Class will get a new diva, Dixie Carter, comes other cast-change news.
When Carter takes over for Patti LuPone in Class, the show will also get a new onstage pianist, Gerald Steichen, replacing David Loud, who originated the role and is leaving to serve as musical director of the incoming musical, Steel Pier.
Also, understudy Alaine Rodin-Lo has taken over the role of Sharon, the fiery soprano who challenges Maria Callas on her own terms. Former Miss New York State Helen Goldsby had been playing the role originated by Audra MacDonald. Theodora Fried and Jay Hunter Morris will remain in their roles.
In other Class news, Dixie Carter, star of TV's "Designing Women," will succeed Patti LuPone in the role of opera diva Maria Callas in Terrence McNally's Tony-winning play Master Class. LuPone's last performance will be Jan 29; Carter's first will be Jan. 31.
Once she ends her New York tenure, LuPone reportedly will bring Master Class to London, in a mounting produced by Robert Fox. Hatty Vidal of the Fox office in London told Playbill On-Line that negotiations are still underway for the West End production, which is "proposed but still not definite. It would be lovely to have Patti do it, and we've come closer to finalizing, but the negotiations are taking time to get all the elements in place. We still have to work out if she wants to do it or stay in New York with it. We should know by the second or third week in January." Carter is best known for her starring role as Julia Sugarbaker on TV's "Designing Women," which ran for seven seasons. She won a Theatre World Award for playing Belle in the 1975 New York Shakespeare Festival production of Jesse And The Bandit Queen. A fixture on the New York cabaret scene since the days of Julius Monk's Upstairs at the Downstairs revues, Carter made her Off-Broadway debut in 1963 in The Winter's Tale. Her last Broadway appearance was as Melba in the 1976 revival of Pal Joey.
Carter has credits in other media as well. Her CD Dixie Carter Sings John Wallowitch Live at the Carlyle was released on the DRG label. Her book Trying To Get to Heaven was published by Simon and Schuster. She's featured in the exercise video "Dixie Carter's Unworkout Video" and in 1994 started her own production company, Little Lambs Inc. Carter is married to actor Hal Holbrook.
With Faye Dunaway's performance as Maria Callas in the Master Class national tour opening to wide acclaim Nov. 4, speculation had arisen that she might be coming to Broadway in the role sometime in 1997. Jim Randolph, spokesperson for the New York and touring productions, dismissed that theory because Dunaway's touring commitments with Master Class are set to book through Nov. 23, 1997.
Dunaway's Master Class opened Jan. 5 at the Paramount in Seattle (through Jan. 18), then the Victoria in Dayton (Jan. 21-Feb. 2), the Shubert in Chicago (Feb. 4-16) and the Forrest in Philadelphia (Feb. 18-March 2). After the tour, Dunaway will appear in the film version of Master Class, which she is co-producing with the owner of the film rights, Jon B. Platt.