That's right--five shows, after Cherie had reportedly thrown herself into the part and lived and breathed Callas for six months. “She devoured this part,” said director Michael Williams. Happily, it showed. Cherie's performance earned lusty standing ovations every night. I watched the show twice, on two Saturdays, and the reaction was ecstatic on both evenings.
Rather than dangle my thoughts about the play at this time, I corralled three young guys who also caught the closing show and grilled them on-cam for their ersatz verdicts. Patrick Valera and Zaf Masahud are UP Theater Arts students and Dulaang UP regulars, while Red Concepcion is one of the busiest musical-theater actors in town today (Orozman at Zafira, Altar Boys, Mulan Jr., West Side Story and, beginning this November, A Christmas Carol). [UPDATE: Hairspray, not A Christmas Carol.]
The three were one in their awe of Cherie Gil. “Divine,” gushed Pat. “Amazing,” agreed Red. And Zaf, who came in with little idea about the play or who Maria Callas was, said it was “mesmerizing.” Easy superlatives, but how they explained their observations was more interesting, since, like the Callas character whose biting, stirring pontifications about art and art-making they had just spent over two hours soaking up, they're also creatures of the stage (or at least its eager aspirants).
I asked the three actors what made Cherie's performance work as well as it did, how they found the staging, the play itself as a piece of writing, the supporting actors' performances, what they took away from the play and from Callas' example.
In brief, Pat thought that, for the way it provokes questions on the value of passion, courage and sacrifice in the pursuit of creativity, “Every artist should watch this play.” “Particularly musical-theater actors, since it talks about how to handle music, feeling, etc.” added Red. Zaf then pointed out how Callas as a hectoring, haranguing, encouraging and inspiring mentor forcefully reminded him of his theater professors (“Tony Mabesa?,” I deadpanned), so “It really fulfills its title--Master Class.”
Oh, but it's not as serious as it sounds. Not when Topic A is diva-watching. Watch:
PLUS: A round-up of bloggers' reviews of Master Class here.
[Photo: William Wong]