Jack and Jilted

Stage Whispers
News from the trenches of the diva wars: Faye Dunaway stood poised to don Norma Desmond's glitter gowns in the Los Angeles run of Sunset Boulevard when Glenn Close left to play the role on Broadway in 1994 -- until the show's creator Andrew Lloyd Webber closed the West Coast production, dumping Dunaway. He claimed she could not sing. A lawsuit followed, with a reported million-dollar-plus out-of-court settlement awarded to the actress to compensate for her loss of face. But, like a phoenix emerging from the ashes, a real diva will rise again. Oscar-winner Dunaway recently landed the plum role of opera legend Maria Callas in the national touring production of Terrence McNally's Master Class, coming to South Florida this March.

Set in a classroom at Juilliard, where Callas, in her later years, takes on the training of young singers, Master Class was written by McNally as a star vehicle for Zoe Caldwell, who won a Tony Award for her remarkable performance. (McNally's script copped the Tony for Best Play, as well -- his second win in a row). When Caldwell finished her tenure, Patti LuPone assumed star position; she is currently holding court on-stage in New York. (LuPone, of course, originated the role of silent screen queen Desmond in London's Sunset. She was shunted aside by Webber in favor of Close when the megahit moved to the States; fickle, fickle Sir Andrew.)

Caldwell and LuPone may cast long shadows, but Dunaway is certainly a dramatic force to be reckoned with. She has immortalized her share of memorable women on-screen: Bonnie Parker in Bonnie and Clyde; Evelyn Mulray in Chinatown; Diana Christensen in Network; and Joan Crawford, one of the screaming-meemie prima donnas of all time, in Mommie Dearest. In a review of the Boston touring show, Variety asserts that Dunaway "claims [the role of Callas] as her own," delivering "a full-size bravura characterization" while holding "the play and audience in the palm of her hand." More good news: The tour retains the original Broadway production team, including director Leonard Foglia, set designer Michael McGarty, lighting designer Brian MacDevitt, and costume designer Jane Greenwood. Class is in session from March 11 to 23 at the Royal Poinciana Playhouse, Palm Beach (407-659-3310) and March 25 to April 13 at the Parker Playhouse, Fort Lauderdale (954-763-2444).

Jack and Jill.
Written by Jane Martin; directed by Juan F. Cejas; with Susanne Kreitman and Juan F. Cejas. Through February 1. For information call 446-1119 or see "Calendar Listings.

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