Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Musical sensation Karen Mason came back to the Marines Memorial Crystal Ballroom for one show only on February 4th. Once again she gave a terrific performance with an eclectic batch of songs running from romantic ballads to powerful upbeat numbers from Broadway.
San Francisco entertainer Connie Champagne opened the show with a set of four songs. Ms. Champagne is a well known local interpreter of Judy Garland songs, and she uses her distinct voice to belt out like the beloved legend. She opened the series with Cole Porter's upbeat "Find Me a Primitive Man" and added some French lyrics to the second chorus. She did a fast swinging rendition of Harold Arlen's 1933 standard, "I've Got the World on a String," and then changed her style into a soft arrangement of Jimmy van Heusen's 1940s standard, "Imagination." She ended her session belting out "San Francisco." Ms. Champagne will have her own show at the New Conservatory Theatre Center this summer.
Karen Mason came out looking like a million dollars, dressed in black pants and shirt with a velvet green jacket. She immediately launched into an energetic rendition of "All That Jazz" from Kander and Ebb's Cabaret followed closely by "If This Isn't Love" from Burton Lane/E. Y. Harburg's Finian's Rainbow. Karen's show was called Just in Time ... for Valentine's Day and she told the audience that her eighth wedding anniversary with husband/producer Paul Rolnick would be coming up on Valentine's Day. She sang several love songs with her soft and melodious voice, starting with Alan Menken/Tim Rice's "A Whole New World" from the Disney film Aladdin and then a Michel Legrand melody of "Watch What Happens" and "I Will Wait for You." For a change of pace, she belted "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" from Jule Styne/Leo Robin's Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Ms. Mason talked of her long term musical relationship with her pianist Christopher Denning. She and Christopher will be appearing in Barcelona at the end of the month. They made a little bit of joke with the Stephen Sondheim song "Barcelona" from Company. One of the songs she will sing in Spain is the Jule Styne/Betty Comden/Adolph Green classic "Just in Time" from Bells Are Ringing.
This dynamic performer sang songs from her newest album, The Sweetest of Nights, which includes "Now I Have Everything" from Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick's Fiddler on the Roof, then segued into Kander and Ebb's "Marriage" from Cabaret. She also sang a heartfelt arrangement of a new song by Paul Rolnick and Henry Cory called "Cold Enough to Cross," also from her album. She made good use of images in this song. She performed a swinging arrangement of Irving Berlin's "Steppin' Out with My Baby" and John Kimsey's "What's Wrong with This Picture?" with a great basso nova beat.
Ms. Mason also sang "The Winner Takes It All" from Mamma Mia! (she played Tanya on Broadway). She ended her session with the jumpy "Hey There, Good Times" from Cy Coleman/Michael Stewart's I Love My Wife. The audience demanded an encore and she offered a lovely rendition of Sammy Cahn/Jule Styne's "Time After Time."
Karen Mason is a supreme cabaret artist who becomes very involved with lyrics. She not only finds many shades within a single chorus but acts out each song. Her connection with the audience is fantastic.