Maria Callas Lives! Tyne Daly Leads Broadway Master Class, Opening July 7
By Kenneth Jones
Terrence McNally's music-kissed biographical drama, Master Class, starring Tyne Daly as a late-career diva Maria Callas, opens on Broadway July 7 following previews from June 14 at Manhattan Theatre Club's Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. The play about the famed opera star (1923-77) won the 1996 Tony Award as Best Play.
Since previews began, the run of the play has been extended by a week, to Aug. 21.
Director Stephen Wadsworth worked with Tony Award winner Daly (of the 1989-90 Broadway Gypsy) on the 2010 Kennedy Center revival of McNally's play, set in a 1970s master class in which Callas critiques young legit singers and muses on her life, loves and career.
Wadsworth's Broadway company includes Olivier Award nominee Sierra Boggess (Love Never Dies, The Little Mermaid) as student-singer Sharon, a role that won Audra McDonald a Tony Award; Clinton Brandhagen as a Stagehand; Jeremy Cohen as accompanist Manny; Alexandra Silber as student-singer Sophie; and Garrett Sorenson as student-singer Tony. Read Playbill.com's recent Brief Encounter interview with Sierra Boggess.
According to MTC, "Terrence McNally's play about Maria Callas (Tyne Daly) takes us to one of her famous master classes, where, late in her own career, she dares the next generation to make the same sacrifices and rise to the same heights that made her the most celebrated, the most reviled and the most controversial singer of her time."
As with the original Broadway production, Master Class includes sung musical passages from Verdi's Macbeth, Puccini's Tosca and Bellini's La Sonnambula. The play is inspired by real master classes that Callas gave at the Juilliard School in the 1970s.
Read Playbill.com's Brief Encounter interview with McNally, from this past spring, in which he said, "Tyne gave an extraordinary performance at the Kennedy Center. It deserves to be seen in New York. She made it her own. I never found myself comparing her to anyone else who's done the part. I thought she was absolutely wonderful on her own terms — and I've been very lucky with my Marias: My God! from Zoe Caldwell to Patti LuPone to Dixie Carter, just on Broadway. Fanny Ardant had a great success in it in Paris…"
He added, "Maria Callas was someone I've thought about since I was a very young person when I first heard her voice on the radio growing up in Texas. I fell in love with the sound of her voice. She has fascinated me. And then her life! That kind of inner turmoil of falling in love with and being rejected by one of the richest, most powerful men in the world [Aristotle Onassis] — it's quite an extraordinary trajectory for anyone's life. It just seemed very theatrical to me.
"But when you sit down to write it, you don't know if anyone else is going to enjoy it or be interested in it. I'll never forget the first time we ever did it for anyone. Zoe and I and Lenny Foglia, the director, went to Big Fork, Montana, and read the play in a Town Hall sort of auditorium just to see how Normal People — non-opera, non-Callas fanatics, non-New York theatregoers — would react to the play. We took three planes and still drove for quite a while. It was a very long trip, but they loved it. When it was over, one of the questions was, 'Is Maria Callas a real person?' Then the woman turned to her husband and said, 'Ya see, I told you she was a real person.' Someone else asked Zoe if she was a professional actress. Zoe said, 'Yes, I am.' The woman said, 'You're very good.' Zoe said, 'Thank you.' So we thought if the play works for an audience that doesn't know that, my God, this is the legendary Zoe Caldwell with 85 Tony Awards, then maybe the play has a chance elsewhere."
In a recent Playbill magazine feature, Daly admitted, "Doing Callas was not my idea. That was Terrence's idea. It seemed entirely inappropriate to me. Have you noticed that I haven't had a lot of glamour requirements in my career? Have you noticed I play blue collar a lot?"
McNally's most recent Broadway credit was the libretto of the 2011 Tony Award-nominated Best Musical Catch Me If You Can. In addition to his Best Play Tony for Master Class, McNally won a Best Play Tony for Love! Valour! Compassion! and Tonys for Best Book for Kiss of the Spider Woman and Ragtime.
The creative team for the new Broadway production of Master Class includes Thomas Lynch (scenic design), Martin Pakledinaz (costume design), David Lander (lighting design), Jon Gottlieb (sound design) and Paul Huntley (wig design).
Master Class is produced by Manhattan Theatre Club (Lynne Meadow, artistic director; Barry Grove, executive producer) by special arrangement with Max Cooper, Maberry Theatricals, Marks-Moore-Turnbull Group and Ted Snowdon.
Tickets are available by calling Telecharge at (212) 239-6200, online by visiting www.Telecharge.com, or by visiting the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre Box Office (261 West 47th Street). Ticket prices are $57-$116.
For more information on MTC, please visit www.ManhattanTheatreClub.com.
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