Amanda Muggleton flexes her acting muscles in ‘Masterclass’

Masterclass | Subiaco Arts Centre | Until Dec 2 | ★ ★ ★ ★  

Amanda Muggleton is one of Australia’s great actors, who has time and again, shown us she can deliver the stories of the most intriguing women.

Whether it has been in her long running and much loved production of Willy Russell’s Shirley Valentine, in her acclaimed performance in Steaming, or her tenure as Chrissie Latham on the iconic TV show Prisoner, Muggleton has always been a captivating actor to watch. 

Now she returns to the role for which she won her first Helpmann Award, playing the legendary diva Maria Callas in Terrance McNally’s comedic Masterclass.

Towards the end of her life, the celebrated opera singer Maria Callas took on some very limited teaching engagements. In these masterclasses the world’s most celebrated opera singer invited brave students to sing for her and she dolled out advice on how they could improve.

As she dishes out tips to students Callas recalls key moments of her own life, including life in Athens during the war, her celebrated performances at La Scala, and her tumultuous love affair with billionaire Aristotle Onassis.   

Muggleton is almost unrecognisable when she takes to the stage, her blonde hair replaces with long dark tresses, she wears heavy make up and dresses in a dark suit, with a bright scarf, and a fur coat. She welcomes us to her Masterclass, for we the audience are her students. 

Immediately she begins dishing out the advice “You’ve got to have a look!” She tells the audience, before singling out a few attendees who clearly do not. 

She recalls moments from different times of her life, often curtailing the recollections with “but that’s a story for another time.” 

As the class progresses Callas brings forth three aspiring opera singers hoping to get her advice and guidance. Joining Muggleton on stage is Dobbs Franks as pianist Manny Weinstock, while Karla Gare, Jessica Boyd and Rocco Speranza play the aspiring opera singers.

While much of Callas’ banter  in comedic and cutting, the play takes turns into darker corners of her life when she recounts different men who have loomed over her. While Muggleton is sensational in her portrayal of Callas, it’s when she morphs into Aristotle Onassis that she really shows off her dramatic skills.

This production from Director Adam Spreadbury-Maher cleverly brings the audience in on the action, making it an intimate and up-close engagement with a larger-than-life character.

The opening night performance was awarded with a standing ovation, something that clearly moved the respected actress.

Muggleton spoke to the audience at the end of the performanmce and acknowledged WA theatre legend  Ray Omodei in the audience crediting him with bringing her to WA for the first time many decades ago.  

The audience were also given a special ‘opening night only’ treat as Gare, Boyd and Speranza each took turns to sing an operatic piece for the audience.        

Masterclass runs until December 2nd at the Subiaco Arts Centre, tickets are available via Ticketek.

Graeme Watson

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