“Master Class” – Arizona Theatre Company

Theater Review – March 31, 2024


Arizona Theatre Company, Center Stage, Tempe Center for the Arts
Tempe, AZ

By Chris Curcio
Theater Critic

Maria Callas was an egotistical, narcissistic operatic superstar who used her vocal talents to achieve unbelievable world-wide acclaim even when she continued to perform as her gifts faded.  She then used her stature to continue her career to the chagrin of her fans and opera lovers.

Callas was a peculiar artist and her trying personality is graphically recreated in Terrence McNally’s brilliant award-winning play “Master Class” which the Arizona Theatre Company has brought to pulsating and luminous life with Broadway, film, and television star Vicki Lewis becoming Callas before the audience’s eyes.

The play chronicles Callas’ many quirks as well as her well-known meanness as she teaches three students how to become great opera stars.  But Callas was inhibited by other great singers even while declaring herself the definitive opera star.  She wanted her students to be pale representations of her without ever achieving her stature and with Callas destroying many students with her underlying mean spirit.

Callas’ operatic downfall was furthered by her personal antics used to extend her fame by associating with powerful people.  She blatantly used these people to further her career even as her skills continued to decline because of her own vocal abuse.

ATC’s “Master Class” is brought to life in Marcia Milgrom Dodge smartly staged production but it is Vicki Lewis’ magnificent Callas’ performance, always an interpretation but never an impersonation, that makes this “Master Class” soar exquisitely.

Surrounding the marvelous Lewis is a multi-talented ensemble including Walter “Bobby” McCoy who provides sensitive accompaniment as pianist Manny.  The First Soprano, Sophie, is hesitant Rachel Gold who sings gloriously but never fails in her awe of Callas.  The Second Soprano, Sharon, played by Kanisha Marie Feliciano, is abscessed by her appearance until Callas makes her understand the voice always comes first.  Tenor Tony is played with confident swagger and a stunning voice by Victor Ryan Robertson while Trent Mills slashes Callas’ arrogance as the opinionated Stagehand.  The stark classroom setting and simple costumes add to a perfect visual impression.

You won’t like Maria Callas at the end of “Master Class” – who could? – but you will understand her drive for perfection and how her tricks caused her to destroy her vocal gifts early on. “Master Class” continues through April 14 at the Tempe Center for the Arts.  Tickets may be purchased by calling the Arizona Theatre Company box office at 833-ATC-SEAT or ordered online at www.atc.org.

Grade: A