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Review: Impressive 'Master Class' with Carla Kendall at The Barn Theatre

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Master Class-Live Play

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If you were fortunate enough to see the remarkable production of playwright Ken Ludwig's very funny "Lend Me A Tenor" at the Barn Theatre in Montville, New Jersey in 2012, you would have marveled, as I did, at the professional level in all areas; cast, sets, costumes, lighting, etc. of the production.

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Remarkable in particular since The Barn Theatre is a non-equity community theatre (translation: no actor is paid....they perform for the love of the theatre). Here is part of my review of the performance on March 18, 2012: "Back to the wonderful cast of community players, all performing for the pure love of the stage; Carla Kendell excels as Diane, the opera singer ready to advance her career via the casting couch, in this case, the bed." Carla Kendell is back on that stage again as an opera singer, but this time center stage giving a master class in acting, in the aptly named "Master Class." The Tony award-winning play, of course, is by Terrence McNally and is based on a series of master classes given by fiery opera diva Maria Callas at Julliard in New York late in her career. Callas combines tough encouragement for her students with reflections on her great success on stage and equally great disappointments in her personal life, particularly her long term relationship with the Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onasssis.

The role of Maria Callas is exceptionally demanding for an actress. This is her story, her play, she is on stage for the entire play. The five other roles in "Master Class" could be likened to opera spear-carriers....important, but vastly over shadowed by the star...and Kendall is the star in every sense of the word. To say she is simply "terrific," is an understatement. She is marvelous. Always in full control of the emotional roller-coaster the demanding part requires. Sadly, you only have two more chances to see Carla Kendall in her role of a lifetime (Friday and Saturday at 8 pm).

Now, let's not slight the fine supporting cast...there is no show without them. First, as the rehearsal hall pianist Manny is Ken Magos, a professional opera singer who teaches singing in real life. Magos' Manny is a perfect contrast to the temperamental Callas. He is steady, always professional and an impressive pianist. Kelly Miller is spot-on as Sophie (a/k/a Soprano #1) with a wonderful "deer-in-the headlights" look to go with her fine voice. Danielle C. Pennisi nicely displays her considerable acting talent, in addition to impressive vocal talent as Sharon (Soprano #2). Jeffrey Dopson has the tenor role. He gives "Tony" a nice comic presence while displaying his fine voice. The stern master class proceedings of diva Callas is punctured throughout the play by the short, but funny, appearances of the stage hand who displays absolutely no interest in the goings-on of the world-famous singer. The part is perfectly played by Claudia Metz, who just happens to be the production's stage manager.

Major applause to Roseann Ruggiero as director and ring master of this outstanding production. Ruggerio is a longtime contributor at The Barn. In the spring of 2012, she directed the remarkable Sondheim musical "Assasins."

Ruggiero's creative team also deserve a round of applause for their key efforts: Lillian Miller costumes; Beau Kennedy set design/decor; Jeff Knapp sound design; Todd Mills lighting design; Jeff Kinkead and John Frangione lighting/sound operation; Geraldine Baillod props. Lillian Miller and Geraldine Baillod are the co-producers.

Reviewed by Rick Busciglio January 26, 2014

The Barn Theatre is located at 32 Skyline Drive in Montville, New Jersey. To contact box office personal via voice mail call 973.334.9320. Visit website at http://www.barntheatre.org/.

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