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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Karen Mason Gives a Passionate and Intimate Performance

Also see Richard's reviews of Bent and Wesla Whitfield

Legendary cabaret and Broadway star Karen Mason concluded the 2005 Bay Area Cabaret season at the Marines Memorial Club on Post Street in San Francisco.  Before a packed audience in the ballroom she had all the wit, technique and substance that we have come to expect from the artist; her sense of theatre is superb.  She is not the type of singer that just stands up and sings - each song is a dramatic display of her amazing talent.   Her projection is perfect and you hear each and every word of the songs. Karen has that special innate comedic ability when talking to the audience between songs.

The singer came out wearing a chic red velvet grown that showed off her great figure.  She said she was growing old as was the audience since this cabaret act started at 5 p.m.  This got the audience into a friendly mood.  She immediately launched into two songs from West Side Story, the joyful "Something's Coming" and "Tonight," followed by "Almost Like Being in Love" from Brigadoon using some of the Scottish guttural sounds on words like "Loch Lomond."  This was a dynamic start to the 90-minute program.

Karen was astounding in her rendition of Alan Menken/Tim Rice's "A Whole New World."  There were other, more quiet moments when her voice was soft and mellow, especially in "It had To Be You." She turned jazzy to sing "When in Rome" in a great swing version of that song.   Her dramatic ability to turn angry in a compilation of "Stormy Weather" and "When the Sun Comes Out" was vibrant.

Karen, who played Tanya "the slut" in New York production of Mamma Mia!, said she always wanted to sing Louise Pitre's song "The Winner Takes It All," and she did it marvelously.  The camaraderie between Karen and pianist Christopher Denny was sublime.  They are like two peas in a pod.   

Karen did not let the audience forget it was the holiday season and offered a very sexy version of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" and a beautiful interpretation of "Winter Wonderland"" followed by "Let It Snow,"  "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)" and "Count your Blessings."  

One of the most heartfelt songs she sang was her favorite song, "We Never Ran Out of Love, We Just Ran Out of Time."   Tears steamed down her face when she sang this heartbreaking song.   She also reminisced about her childhood in Arlington Heights, Illinois when singing the touching "Up on the Roof."   Continuing in that vein, she ended her concert with Shelly Markham and Judith Viorst's "Sweetest of Nights and Finest of Days"  with thematic resonance.  The audience rose and gave her a thunderous ovation; she returned to sing the wonderful Judy Garland classic, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."  

Karen Mason performed on Dec 11 at Marine's Memorial. Ann Hampton Callaway will be coming to the Marines Memorial Club on Sunday May 14th as part of next years Bay Area Cabaret season.   For more information on that performance go to www.bayareacabaret.org or call 415-927-INFO.


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema



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