By Tom Alvarez, Indianapolis Performing Arts Examiner
August 27, 2012
The content of Karen Mason’s show is clearly evident in its title, “Karen Mason: Show Queen, A Broadway Songbook,” so expectations that she would have the appropriate talents and presence to properly represent ran high.
Fortunately, when the singer and actress opened Friday — the first performance of a two-day run at the Cabaret at the Columbia Club in downtown Indianapolis — she more than delivered as she showed a larger-than-life personality that was matched only by her potent voice.
Most recently, Mason starred in “Wonderland” as the Queen of Hearts, and before that appeared in such shows as “Hairspray,” “Mamma Mia!” “Sunset Boulevard,” “And the World Goes ‘Round” and “Jerome Robbins’ Broadway.”
Also a concert artist, Mason has performed throughout the world and has headlined at major venues such as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. A ten-time MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs) award winner, Mason has played clubs like Feinstein’s at Loews Regency, the Algonquin and the Metropolitan Room.
Mason has also recorded 6 solo albums, including “Right Here, Right Now,” “When the Sun Comes Out” and “Sweetest of Nights.”
Christopher Denny, who is Mason’s music director and arranger, accompanied her on the piano during the show. He has also played with the likes of Julie Wilson and David Burnham and is sought out by many of Broadway’s and cabaret’s elite.
But aside from Mason’s commanding vocals, enhanced by his masterful accompaniment, it was Denny’s highly distinctive arrangements that made this Cabaret act special.
Mason opened with “Something’s Coming,” from “West Side Story,” and quickly established she is Broadway caliber while demonstrating substantial singing and acting chops and a vocal range that made for some fairly spectacular moments throughout her show. Also evident from the start was Mason’s warm personality and humor, as reflected in her interaction with an audience that readily embraced her.
Favorite Act 1 songs included “When I Marry Mr. Snow,” from “Carousel,” “Colored Lights,” from “The Rink,” and “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” which she jokingly referred to as “non-PC.” Mason also sang “Finding Wonderland,” from “Wonderland,” the Frank Wildhorn musical she starred in that closed after only 31 performances in 2011.
A highlight of Mason’s show was her astounding rendition of “As If We Never Said Goodbye,” from “Sunset Boulevard.” Her claim to fame, as far as this Tony Award-winning musical, is that she was a standby for the role of Norma Desmond when the character was played by Glenn Close, Betty Buckley and Elaine Paige. Based on her performance, there was absolutely no doubt that she could hold her own in this or any other leading role.
During Act 2, Mason continued to regale the audience with her full-bodied voice while singing iconic songs from musicals, which she managed to make very much her own. They included “People,” “All That Jazz,” “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Impossible Dream,” from “Man of La Mancha.”
For tickets and information about upcoming Cabaret at the Columbia Club performances, call (317) 275-1169 or visit www.thecabaret.org.
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