Kelli Harrington Gives Maria Callas An Authentic Voice In Theo Ubique’s MASTER CLASS
In the rarified world of opera, few have achieved the accolades garnered by Maria Callas. Considered by many to be the greatest soprano ever to grace the stage, Callas’ worldwide fame and celebrity came at a emotional cost as her life was mired in controversy and scandal until her death at the age of 57 in 1977.
In Terrence McNally’s 1996 Tony Award winning Master Class, we are in the presence of the diva herself as she mentors three opera students (or ‘victims’ as she calls them). Through the class and students, Callas tells of her journey from growing up as a fat girl in Greece to becoming the most famous opera star of them all. McNally originally got the idea after seeing master class taught by Joan Sutherland at Juilliard, where he also learned that Callas taught a series of classes toward the end of her life.
The play itself, which is a truly inspired piece of writing, has also become known for the famous actresses playing Callas. Zoe Caldwell, Patti LuPone, Faye Dunaway (my personal favorite) and Tyne Daly have all played the master teacher. In having a “diva” play a diva, the actress has an instant advantage in the believability factor. The concept is the same for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard, in which the show only really works when you have a star playing Norma Desmond.
So when Kelli Harrington (Jeff Award Winner for The Light In The Piazza) walks out on stage as Maria Callas for Theo Ubique’s new production of Master Class, I wanted to see how long it would take for the audience to accept her as the opera star. There’s the rub, there wasn’t any time to think about it because Ms. Harrington did what none of the above “diva’s” could do. She is Maria Callas from the get go and it is one of the finest performances I have seen, period.
Fred Anzivino does such an incredible job directing this production, that his work is almost invisible as the Callas’ class seems so real that you forget you are at the No Exit Cafe. Then there are the glorious arias sung by her students Ashlee Hardgrave, Rachel Klipple, and Kevin Siemborthatt that juxtapose the Callas monologues which show the emotional void that haunted her for her entire life.
Through Master Class, the myth of the “diva” is dissected to show that even with all the riches, fame and accolades, the basic human condition still demands to be loved. Sometimes the basics are hard to attain.
Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre’s production of Master Class runs through November 24, 2013 at the No Exit Cafe, 6970 N. Glenwood St., Chicago. Box Office: 800-595-4849