We received a stellar review of our current production of Master Class from The Live Theatre League of Greater Peoria’s website! Here are some of the highlights…
Review of Master Class
Peoria Cabaret Theatre
March 4, 2011
By Douglas Okey
Even theatre-goers who do not know opera know Maria Callas. Comparisons to Charlie Sheen or Lindsay Lohan stretch the point, but to some degree Callas was a bad girl in her day. Scandal and controversy seemed to trail La Divina, as she was sometimes called. Most familiar to many Americans might be her long-time dalliance with billionaire Aristotle Onassis, who later put the “O” in “Jackie O.”
The Maria Callas at the center of Terence McNally’s 1995 play Master Class,directed by Andrew Driscoll for Peoria Cabaret Theatre at the Waterhouse, has long since put most of the eyebrow-raising behind her. The story is inspired by a series of master classes in opera that Callas conducted at Juilliard in the early 1970s. This Callas very much plays the diva with her students and support staff, but McNally’s play explores the complex demands placed upon an artist in the public eye.
In the story, Callas, played here by Susan Somerville Brown, addresses the audience as she prepares to work individually with students coming in to work with the legendary soprano. She interacts with the classroom accompanist, Manny (a subtle performance by Anthony Roberts) and a stagehand played by Ed Peck. In these dealings, Callas behaves with an air of entitlement that would make Naomi Campbell proud, but a warm sense of humor blunts the point of her sting. Still, the students—two sopranos played by Rebecca Meyer and Elisabeth Richter and a tenor played by Jarod Hazzard—stand suitably in awe of her fame and talent. These accomplished singers each bring out a different aspect of Callas’s personality, and those aspects are not always flattering.
…Somerville Brown’s Callas demands our attention from the moment she takes the stage. She demonstrates the ability to capture and control; she captivated the opening night audience at several key moments throughout the play. It’s easy to imagine how small one might feel under that steely gaze for too long, so we can sympathize with the students. As she gradually reveals bits and pieces of her past, always with the dismissive, “But that’s another story,” we begin to understand how the eye of the public took its toll on Callas herself… It is a gripping performance in a daunting role…
Playgoers note: though opera is the subject, no special familiarity with either the music or the industry is required to enjoy this fine performance.
You can read the full review HERE.
Master Class continues this Friday and Saturday, March 11 and 12 at The Waterhouse. Reservations can be made by calling The Waterhouse office at 309.494.9100 or ONLINE HERE. The doors will open at 6pm for cocktails and a three course plated dinner is served starting at 6:30pm. The show will begin promptly at 8:00pm. Admission is $45 with a portion of every full price admission donated to Opera Illinois League.