PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Master Class Tyne Daly as La Divina

By Harry Haun
08 Jul 2011

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The rest of the young Master Class cast is ringing up Broadway debuts right and left.

In the case of the callow tenor who oddly gets through to Callas, Garrett Sorenson is racking up a field of firsts with this performance. "This is my stage debut. I've never done a play before in my life. I come from an opera background. My opera manager, Matthew Warner, called me up one day and said, 'This is something really different, but they're not finding the right guy for this. Do you want to try it? Here are the sides.' I said, 'What are sides?' And then away we go . . ."

"Al Silber" is the way Alexander Silber prefers to be addressed: "It's my name," she insisted. "I've tried everything else. It started at summer camp, and it's me. And, when you get to know me, you would find it's so unbelievably my name."

Her date for her Broadway-debut evening was her best friend who goes back to high-school arts-camp days: Michael Arden, the actor (Big River, Bare) lately turning director (he's off next to twirl La Ronde in L.A.).

"What's really interesting is that Michael Arden is the first person to introduce me to [Master Class]," she noted. "It's his favorite play in the world. He wrote a college essay about it, and he made me read it. It was just wonderful knowing he was out there in the audience tonight."

Her performance of a budding hopeful named Sophie De Palma has brought her to Broadway stardom. "It's an alchemical transformation," she said of her sudden career upgrade. "In life, we only have 100 percent of what we've got today. The 100 percent I had yesterday is not the 100 percent today, nor will it be what I've got tomorrow. As long as I use all I have right now in this moment, all my work will always be truthful.

Alexandra Silber
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

"Most of all," she continued, "Sophie De Palma doesn't know this is Al's Broadway debut. She wants and needs things right this second from Callas, from life, from her own heart and soul — and that's what I'm trying to honor and endeavor to deserve to honor every single day. Once that's done, I can bow as Alexandra with joy and pride and recall that little girl who had this dream to be on Broadway one day . . ."

McNally created some neat little character comedy from the lofty Callas having to deal with a lowly stagehand. Clinton Brandhage grooves to this chemical friction with the star. "It's so much fun to play with Tyne every night," he admitted. "Whatever she does or whatever I do, she's there 100 percent."

He's also observing backstage life, picking up character tips from the working stagehands. "I study them all the time. I'm hoping by the end I can join Local One."

The nicest person on the stage, no doubt about it, the sweet-tempered self-effacing accompanist, played with much nervousness and nuance by Jeremy Cohen, "It's a wonderful role. You get to be on stage pretty much the whole time — with the exception of Tyne's soliloquies — and you want to contribute without distracting. You want to enhance the story at the right moments and develop the relationships between the students and with Maria, all while playing that beautiful music."

Even their director — a very high-profile director in opera who directed Beth Henley's 1998 Impossible Marriage, Off-Broadway — Stephen Wadsworth is marking his first work on Broadway. Daly recommended him for the job because he had helped her negotiate the dizzying heights of another regal personality, Clyaemnestra, in the Aeschylus Agamemnon. Making it an even better fit, Wadsworth runs the program that brought Callas to Juilliard in the first place and, routinely, teaches actors to sing.

"This was a very tough thing to cast because you need actors and you also need singers and they all have to be in the same body," he pointed out. "So we saw a lot of opera people and we saw a lot of music-theatre people and we saw a lot of actors who have voices and we cast one of each. They all come from different places.

"But the two women! This is a new way of singing for Sierra, and her mastery of it was so fast and so incredible how she soaked up beautiful Italian, beautiful style in a very musical sense — just stunning! And 'Al' — I said, 'Hey, wait a minute. That's a major instrument.' I said, 'Give me a year, and I'll get you a Micaela at The Met.'"

Sierra Boggess
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Mrs. Wadsworth, actress and author Francesca Faridany, who headed the second wave of actors rushing into the long-running hit, The 39 Steps, will be returning to Broadway herself when the two come back from their summer vacation to play Frank Langella's wife in Terence Rattigan's 1963 play, Man and Boy, which Roundabout is reviving Oct. 9 at the American Airlines Theatre.

Faridany said she and Wadsworth "met about 15 years ago at an audition for An Ideal Husband at Berkeley Rep. He gave me the role."

Betraying her actress roots in glamorous sunglasses, the director of Man and Boy is Maria Aitken (they call Aitken and the wind MaRIa). She said Adam Driver and Michael Siberry, both from the recent Mrs. Warren's Profession, will co-star. "It's about a Ponzi scheme in the Depression, and it's based on a real person," she said. Charles Boyer played the lead originally.

Daly's next play is a musical comedy called It Shoulda Been You out of town in the fall. One of her co-stars (Edward Hibbert) and her debuting director (David Hyde Pierce) joined her opening-night cheering section. "Harriet Harris, Howard McGillin and Lisa Howard are also in it," noted Herr Director. "The idea is to cast good people so I don't have to direct."

Nina Arianda, last season's new Judy Holliday (via Born Yesterday) and this season's new Nina Arianda (via her Venus in Fur, up next at the Friedman this fall), can also be seen on screen in the delightful, time-traveling "Midnight in Paris." She's in the contemporary scenes and was given only that part of the script, so she is as amazed as everyone else is about the film's content — but "I was perfectly fine with it. When you have such a wonderful director like Woody Allen, who's saying he trusts you, then that's a.) a huge honor, and b.) you're going with it, and do whatever you need to do, make some choices."

McNally's Ragtime words and music — lyricist Lynn Ahrens and composer Stephen Flaherty — said they'd just finished their Susan Stroman workshop for Lincoln Center Theatre. "It's called The Little Dancer — at least that's this week's title," cracked the composer.

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