Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Veteran Broadway actress and cabaret performer Karen Mason electrified her fans at Feinstein's in the Hotel Nikko earlier this month with her strong voice and dramatic readings of each song. It Ms. Mason's gift to take a lyric and own it is unequaled and amazing. She has a Barbra Streisand style about her. Her backup and arranger of 20 years, the incomparable Christopher Denny, was pitch perfect on the piano.
Without any fanfare, the singer opened the show with her powerful vocal cords on "Something's Coming" from West Side Story and then segued softly into "Almost Like Being in Love" from Brigadoon. This was a fitting start to the night for her adoring fans, including me.
Karen Mason talked about being the first performer to sing at Don't Tell Mama in 1982. She appeared there 33 years later, sadder since she had lost many friends to AIDS through the years. The artist regaled the crowd with an eclectic mix of songs, from the swinging "Murder She Says" made famous by the Andrews Sisters to the more sublime "He Touched Me." She captivated the audience with Stephen Sondheim's "Being Alive" from Company, and exquisite Brian Lasser arrangements of "Lorna's Here" and "I Want to Be With You," as a tribute to her dear friend who was her musical collaborator until his death in 1992. She also shared stories about her appearance with at the Russian Tea Room.
Mason captivated the crowd with Gershwin's "How Long Has This Been Going On?", John Lennon and Paul McCartney's "I'm Happy Just to Dance with You" and Brian Lasser's "I Made a New Friend." She shared a fascinating story about being a Broadway understudy for Glenn Close, Betty Buckley, and Elaine Page in the role of Norma Desmond in Webber's Sunset Boulevard. She went on for almost 300 performances over a two-year period both in Los Angeles and on Broadway. She then went into a beautiful and dramatic arrangement of "As If We Never Said Goodbye" from that show. She became Norma Desmond during the singing with a spotlight just shining on her face. It was a wonderful heartfelt moment.
Karen Mason appeared at Feinstein's on May 6 and May 7, 2016. For a lineup of artists who will appear in Feinstein's go to www.hotelnikkosf.com/feinsteins.aspx.