Theatre Review: Master Class

If you are an avid theatre patron in the City of Angels, you’ve likely seen a show or two at the lovely Falcon Theatre (and if not, for shame!) in Burbank. The Falcon has very recently closed its doors after a 20 year run and re-launched as a non profit organization in honor of Garry Marshall, the late founder. The theatre has a new name: The Garry Marshall Theatre, not to mention a new attitude. And it’s a great one.

The new artistic directors (Dimitri Toscas and Joseph Leo Bwarie) decided to “celebrate the power of ART” in their inaugural season and they are off to a good start. There are plenty of places I could start but it seems appropriate to begin with their current (and first) show, Master Class by Terrance McNally. I’m now immediately compelled to mention Carolyn Hennessy. Carolyn Hennessy and (3rd mention for additional emphasis) Carolyn Hennessy. You might guess that Emmy award winner, Carolyn Hennessy, takes on the lead role of Maria Callas. Known as La Davinia, Ms. Callas was a fascinating person in real life, it’s a mesmerizing role, and the perfect actress has been chosen to take her on. Really, this show lives and dies on the playing of this role. I remember seeing Master Class about 20 years ago. It must have been the first tour and the role was played by a Hollywood legend. I’m sure I personally related more to the play at that time than I do now, but I sure don’t remember being floored by the “legend” actress playing the role, the way I was by Ms. Hennessy. People, hear me loud and clear: This performance will be one of the best you’ll see up-close-and-personal this year, and possibly years to come.

So, you want to know what the show is about before you make the commitment to go? I suppose that’s fair. The show is inspired by the world-renowned Opera singer’s (yep, Maria Callas) master class series she held at Juilliard. The theatre audience is basically auditing one of these classes. We, the audience, sit in on a session with a first soprano, Sophie de Palma (Maegan McConnell), a tenor, Anthony Candolino (Landon Shaw II), and a second soprano, Sharon Graham (Aubrey Trujillo-Scarr). We witness relentless methods of drawing the best performances from her students as well as the demons with whom she still wrestles. She’s a genius. She’s tortured. She’s riveting. And by she… I mean Maria and Carolyn. I’m still not sure I know the difference right now.

The supporting cast is solid and offers some needed comic relief. Manny the accompanist (Roy Abramsohn) and the Stagehand (Jeff Campanella) provide a needed chuckle from time to time. Then again, Maria Callas herself is not without her own sense of humor. The director (and co-artistic director) Dimitri Toscas has built and runs a tight ship. His director’s notes in the program are not to be missed… and when does anyone ever say that? The set (Susan Garyantes) was completely cool, beautiful and non distracting. It can be sometimes, am I right? And the wig designer (Laura Caponera) should take a bow at curtain call. You’ll see.

This may not be a piece of theatre that changes your life. But, if you are an artist yourself this show will speak to you. If you are a theatre enthusiast, this is simply one not to be missed. If you are a student of the theatre, watching Carolyn Hennessy as Maria Callas is a master class within a master class. It’s an exciting and important time for the new Garry Marshall Theatre.  Choose the reason(s) you will attend, just make sure you attend

Garry Marshall Theatre,

4252 W Riverside Drive

Burbank, CA 91505

run time: 1 hour 50 minutes

Now thru Oct 22

Tickets: $45-$65 (and available on discount ticket sites)

Box Office: (818) 955-8101 | GarryMarshallTheatre.org

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