The Women’s Theater Company in Parsippany has launched their 21st Season with an outstanding production of Terrence McNally’s Tony-Award winning play Master Class.
The play is directed by the company's artistic director Barbara Krajkowski and stars Katrina Ferguson as the fiery opera star Maria Callas. The play is based on Maria Callas' voice master classes she conducted at New York's Julliard School of Music toward the end of her career (1977).
To say that Katrina Ferguson is magnificent in this role may be an understatement. Whereas Callas conducted a master class for opera students, Ferguson conducts a master class in acting. She could easily have taken over the role during its Broadway run. This lady owns the WTC's stage for the better part of two hours. She beautifully captures the spirit and style of the great diva. She is glamorous... dressed in a black pants suit with a long red scarf...very elegant and highly attractive. Her mild Greek accent works perfectly in adding to her commanding role of teacher to operatic novices.
Over the course of the two acts, Callas "coaches" three students, two sopranos (Sophie-Jill Cappucino and Sharon-Elise Brancheau) and one tenor (Tony- Chris Sierra). Between and during her student sessions she shares recollections of the highs and lows of her career, including biting comments about other singers and conductors and the cruel press early in her career.
A particularly dramatic turn comes when she reveals intimate details of her longtime, well publicized, affair with the Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. She also covers her difficult early life during the Nazi occupation of Greece when she considered herself an "ugly ducking."
Most of her comments are directed to the audience, who represent other students. She covers all this while challenging her students who expected only constructive criticism with not only their vocal skills, but their stage presence and even dress selection.
Supporting Katrina Ferguson, is an impressive group of young people. First, Callas' class pianist is played by Amanda Zook. Jill Cappucino, a Barn Theatre regular (excellent in last season's "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change"), is the first soprano- Sophie. Elise Brancheau is the second soprano- Sharon. The third student is a tenor-Tony played by Chris Sierra. All three are nicely equipped with fine voices and suffer perfectly the darts, zings and even praise from Callas.
A light touch is provided by Laura Petrucelli as a stage hand who reluctantly caters to Callas' creature comfort needs....totally unimpressed with the great diva.
The production staff includes: Grayce Coviello equity stage manager; Warren Helms music coach/coordinator; Jonathan Wentz set design, construction and props; Nick Downham lighting design; Joan Ludwig costumes; and Larry Wilbur sound.
To see Barbara Krajkowski's production of Terrence McNally’s Master Class with Katrina Ferguson as Maria Callas you only have until October 6. Please note that love of opera is not essential to the enjoyment of this superior production.
Reviewed by Rick Busciglio September 28, 2013
All performances are Friday and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets are $25, and $20 for seniors.
The Women’s Theater Company is a professional theater located at the Parsippany Playhouse at 1130 Knoll Road, Lake Hiawatha (Parsippany), New Jersey. Note: For GPS driving directions, enter the town of Boonton, 07005. To purchase tickets online go to www.womenstheater.org or call 973-316-3033, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.