Arizona Theatre Company Delivers Tony Award-Winning Play “Master Class”
By A.A. Cristi. Originally published by Broadway World.
Arizona Theatre Company continues its virtuosic season with the Tony Award winning play Master Class, by five-time Tony winner Terrence McNally. Master Class tells the story of opera superstar Maria Callas as she delivers a hilarious and harrowing masterclass to the future stars who are nipping at her heels.
Broadway and Hollywood actress Vicki Lewis will play Callas in ATC’s production. A star of the sit-com NewsRadio, Lewis has had extensive recurring roles on shows like How I Met Your Mother, Modern Family, Home Improvement, Seinfeld and Grey’s Anatomy, as well as in films that include Finding Nemo, Mousehunt and Pushing Tin. On stage, she has starred on Broadway in Anastasia, Chicago, Damn Yankees, The Crucible (as Mary Warren), the City Center production of Pal Joey as well as the LA Productions of City of Angels, My One and Only and Hotel C’est L’amour – for which she won an Ovation Award. She was also a soloist with the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall.
“It’s thrilling and intimidating to immerse myself in Maria Callas’ world,” Lewis says about the task of portraying the formidable star. “I’ve studied her music and listened to her recordings, both spoken and sung. But ultimately, I don’t think the play is about an impression or an imitation. It’s a play about what performers do, why they do it and at what cost.”
As Callas instructs each of her ambitious students, she reflects on the path that led to various moments in her life. She recounts the rise and fall of her career and the sacrifices she made along the way to get her to the top. Playwright McNally masterfully balances the severe moments with lighthearted punches that capture Callas’ dry sense of humor.
Master Class was awarded both a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Play and a Tony Award for Best Play in 1996. It earned Zoe Caldwell a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play and Audra McDonald a Tony Award for Featured Actress in a Play that same year. ATC’s Master Class will reunite Lewis with Tony nominated director Marcia Milgrom Dodge with whom she has collaborated with many times. Dodge was last seen at ATC in 1994, directing Some Enchanted Evening.
ATC’s Kasser Family Artistic Director Matt August says “Master Class is the story of one of the world’s Elite Artists, and the focus, drive and sacrifices she had to make in order to achieve a level artistry that we mortals can only dream of. Music and sound seemed to course through her, as a vessel given to us from the gods, and while it brought her great acclaim and immortality, her personal story was more intimate, complex, and withheld. McNally opens this up and gives us universal story of examining our life to become our best self. It’s a remarkable, war-horse of a play.” August also notes that although Maria Callas passed away in 1977, interest in her life and her impact on opera is stronger than ever with a movie starring Angelina Jolie playing Callas scheduled for release later this year.