Review Roundup: West End's MASTER CLASS

Stephen Wadsworth's new production of Terrence McNally's Master Class starring Tyne Daly as the legendary opera soprano Maria Callas IS at the Vaudeville Theatre following its critically acclaimed, sell-out run on Broadway. Joining Daly are Gerard Carey (Stagehand), Jeremy Cohen (Emmanuel Weinstock), Naomi O'Connell (Sharon Graham), Dianne Pilkington (Sophie De Palma) and Garrett Sorenson (Anthony Candolino).

Master Class, produced in the West End by Max Cooper, Maberry Theatricals, The Marks-Moore-Turnbull Group, Ted Snowdon and Sonia Friedman Productions in association with Morris Berchard, Scott M. Delman, Susan Dietz, Scott & Brian Zeilinger/The Broadway Consortium and the Manhattan Theatre Club, will run at the Vaudeville Theatre for 14 weeks. Set design is by Thomas Lynch, costume design by Martin Pakledinaz, lighting by David Lander, sound by Jon Gottlieb and wigs by Paul Huntley.

Charles Spancer, Telegraph: Her Callas takes to the stage as though it was her personal fiefdom and addresses the audience as if we were her subjects. The result is mesmerising and often wonderfully funny. Indeed, with her gift for both self-aggrandisement and the withering put-down, Daly’s Callas often put me in mind of Dame Edna Everage in her glorious prime.

Michael Billington, Evening Standard: Beware of Americans bearing gift-wrapped versions of Greek legends. After the horrors of Martin Sherman's Onassis, we now have the return of Terrence McNally's version of a masterclass given by Maria Callas. Even if Tyne Daly's performance far surpasses the one we saw from Patti LuPone in 1997, the play still offers a caricature of what we know of the real Callas.

Paul Taylor, Independent: Let me say at the outset that Tyne Daly is astonishingly good at what she is asked to do for this show. Bulky in black trouser suit, features pulled back in a mask of quasi-oriental disdain, she has as much"presence" as the Grand Canyon or the Taj Mahal by moonlight. In all masterclasses, there is a tension between the public display of pedagogic purpose and the potential blood sport of pupils being made examples of in more ways than one.

Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard: If Daly's name calls to mind only Cagney & Lacey (for which, by the way, she won four Emmys), prepare to be dazzled. At 65 she is more than a decade older than Callas was when she died, but it doesn't matter. Daly is imperious and sometimes woundingly funny as this queenly, flawed, swaggering artist who thrilled the world of opera with her raw and vivid singing.

Michael Coveney, Whatsonstage: She’s marvellous, in fact, as Callas, miles better than Patti LuPone in the premiere (who played the diva merely as a bitchy drag act), mining the tragedy of her own life while acting probably her greatest role, Verdi’s Lady Macbeth, through her tutorial. She gives sideways looks that kill, a noble nose framed in flyaway mascara and arched brows that suggest an uncanny facial resemblance. Her one message to the students, repeated ad infinitum ad nauseam in banal variations, is “feel” it, don’t just sing it.

Libby Purves, Times: Naomi O'Connell does a spectacular Lady Macbeth, hurling it virtually through gritted teeth as Callas torments her; and the classroom fades again into black-and-golden memory as Daly passionately, brilliantly evokes triumph, paranoia, betrayals and regrets. Her last pupil just hates her for it. That’s life: the onward roll of the generations.


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