If you’re in the market for a comedian, I’ve got a recommendation. For those in search of a wedding singer, I have a name for you. Anyone looking for a bonafide, radiant talent who can sing the living daylights out of any song? I’ve got you covered. The answer to all of the aforementioned queries is: Karen Mason.
The accomplished Broadway and cabaret star is enjoying a month long residency at Don’t Tell Mama’s, the midtown establishment which she and the late Nancy Lamott opened in 1983. Her show, entitled Mason at Mama’s in May, is a joyous collection of American standards, a few numbers from ill-fated productions, and an original tune, written by her husband, Paul Rolnick, and Shelly Markham. The evening is directed by Barry Kleinbort with musical direction/pianist Christopher Denny.
Mason opened with the George and Ira Gershwin classic, “Our Love Is Here To Stay” and closed with Harold Arlen/Yip Harburg’s “Somehwhere over the Rainbow”. Although both songs are often oversung, Mason breathed fresh life into each lyric, subtly acknowledging their current political relevance. From Ira Gershwin:
The more I read the papers/the less I comprehend/The world and all its capers/ and how it all will end.
Harburg gave the world this inspiration:
When all the world is a hopeless jumble/And the raindrops tumble all around/Heaven opens a magic lane
In both cases, Mason reminded us why these songs remain forever woven into the fabric of our culture.
Other highlights from the evening included the title song from Play Me A Country Song, a country-western musical that served as Mason’s Broadway debut. She joked about its’ short run, informing us that, “It opened on June 27, 1982 and closed on June 27, 1982,” and added that “the score was by Harry Manfredini, who wrote music for the Friday the 13th movies.”
She also treated her enthusiastic audience to the title song from another stage disappointment, Rebecca. “For those who are unfamiliar with this story, go home and watch American Greed,” she said. The musical, in which Mason was cast, never reached Broadway after an unscrupulous producer conned his investors.
Mason’s bright spirit, however, has transcended her disappointments and she offered sage wisdom about navigating life’s challenges. In addition, she has enjoyed lengthy stints in Mamma Mia! and Sunset Boulevard, the latter of which she gleefully parodied during her 80 minute act.
Mason, whose many fans include those within the LBGT community, amused her audience with the history of her husband’s song. “After marriage equality passed in New York State, I became a wedding singer!” Once the laughter subsided, she sang the wonderfully poignant “It’s About Time.” The song is also the title track from her new album , which includes many of the songs she is performing this month.
Mason noted that the last time she performed at Don’t Tell Mama’s, her show was called Mason at Mama’s in March. She has now exhausted her alliterative calendar options. For long time fans and newcomers, it doesn’t much matter. Between her comedic timing, incredible warmth, and glorious vocals, Mason at Mama’s is a must in any month.
Karen Mason in Mason at Mama’s in May will continue at 7 PM ET on Sunday May 28th and Monday May 29th at Don’t Tell Mama’s (West 46th street between 8th and 9th.) For tickets and more information about these shows and upcoming appearances visit here.