Karen Mason, who will once again don the famed "Sunset" turban while Betty Buckley goes on vacation Jan. 29 to Feb. 10, talked with Playbill On-Line members on Jan. 26. Karen has played the role, on Broadway more than 50 times most recently for two weeks in October -- as well as in LA to critical acclaim and standing ovations. She talked with members about her intricate role as well as the many other exciting projects she has on the burner.
Here's some additional information about our guest. Karen played Mazeppa, the stripper with a gimmick, and stopped the show with her singing of "Mr. Monotony" in Jerome Robbins Broadway. Her other B'way shows include Play Me a Country Song, Torch Song Trilogy.
Karen Received a 1993 Drama Desk Award nomination for playing Rosalie in Carnival as well as the Outer Critics Circle Award for And the World Goes Round.
In the spring she will star in a new musical written for her by her long-time collaborator Brian Lasser called One Tough Cookie at the Apple Tree Theatre in Chicago.
Karen has also been invited to kick-off ASCAP's new Sunday evening cabaret series at Rainbow & Stars on Sunday, February 25 by presenting her cabaret act for two performances. Her recordings includes the soundtrack of Jeffrey (Varese Sarabande), the original cast album of And the World Goes Round (RCA), "Lost in Boston II" (Varese Sarabande) and her own newly re-issued CD "Not So Simply Broadway" (Zevely Records ).
The event was hosted by Playbill On-Line's associate editor, Katia Lundy.
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): Welcome Karen! Hope you are ready for these eager beavers.
Karen Mason: Thanks Katia. It's great to be here.
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): Let's start taking questions. Here's your first one from TNederIan.
Question: Karen, when will you be in "Sunset?"
Karen Mason: Hi Nederlan. I start Monday, Jan. 29 for two weeks and end Feb. 10.
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): This is from KeithM9
Question: How did you get started in the theatre?
Karån Mason: Hi Keith. Actually I went to an all-girls Catholic high school and it was a way to meet boys. So musicals were a way to find dates.
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): Q from MCrawford (I don't know if it's the real Crawford) but... Question: What song do you like singing the most from "Sunset Blvd.?"
Karen Mason: I really love singing "As If We Never Said Goodbye. It reminds me of every time I come back into the show and how nervous I am when it starts and how at home I feel by the time I get to that song.
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): This one's from Roxane
Question: Hello . . . I thoroughly enjoyed your performance in "And the World Goes Round." Have you done a lot with Kander and Ebb?
Karen Mason: Hi Roxane and thanks. That show was really difficult because it was so physical. But John and Fred write great songs for belters. But that's the only show I've done with them but they can always hire me again if they'd like to.
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): Q from JerseyRos
Question: What do you do to keep in shape for climbing those stairs so many times?
Karen Mason: Hi Ros. I spend some time at the gym at the stair master but mostly it's running to my agent to see about future jobs.
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): Cosmik wants to know:
Question: Do you prefer to perform in a smaller, intimate setting, such as a cabaret or "And The World Goes Round," or do you prefer to perform all out, such as in "Sunset Boulevard"?
Karen Mason: Nice question Cosmik. I really like performing in all of them. You get different feedback from all types of audiences. In a smaller place you get to see people's faces close-up. And feel their energy. But in a large theatre like the Minskoff the feeling of having people respond to what you're doing on stage especially when there are 1700 of them, is amazing.
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): Q From CEDwyer
Question: How did you get started in Broadway? How does it feel to play the lead in such a well-known Broadway musical?
Karen Mason: Hi. My first B'way job was a show called "Play Me A Country Song" and it closed on opening night. I still continued to audition and after about 15 years of being in NYC I'm getting the chance to play one of the most provocative women ever written. And it feels great.
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): This Q's for you from Jewelsf29
Question: I just got accepted into a Musical Program at PSU and I was wondering if there was any College you recommend?
Karen Mason: I didn't graduate from college, much to the dismay of my folks, so I think any studying and preparation is a good thing. The more you know the better performer you can be.
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): From JerseyRos
Question: What is the most difficult aspect of portraying a character like Norma Desmond?
Karen Mason: Hi again. I've never been in a film and have never been the object of all of that attention so I can only imagine that part of Norma. And that is probably the most difficult. And the weight of the costumes is tough.
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): Question from StarbuckD
Question: Hi Karen. I got to see you here in CT in "Heartbeats" and I loved it. I'm not anywhere near 40 or married but I was near tears at times. Anywho, my question is will your new show be coming to NY or maybe even CT?
Karen Mason: Hi Starbuck. Thank you so much for letting me know you enjoyed my work. I love to know people cry. Hopefully "One Tough Cookie," my new show, will move to NYC sometime in the next couple of years. Hope to see you there.
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): This person sent me a question earlier this evening. She wanted to make sure you get this since she couldn't attend the chat due to rehearsals. Here's her question/statement:
Hi Karen. Do you remember me? I'm the girl who is always sitting with Nathan. I have long brown curly hair and my name is Andrea. I am either with Nathan or Mike. Well anyway, I just want to tell you that I saw you 3X when Betty was on vacation and I loved your performance. . . Also I am going to see it again when you take over again and I am going to introduce myself to you this time. Hope that's all right.
Karen Mason: Hi Andrea. I think you've seen the show more than my parents. Actually my parents have seen it about 10 times. I look forward to meeting you after the show and I will definitely recognize your brown curly hair.
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): Question from MBarcelon
Question: Loved you in ATWGR. How much input did cast have in who sang what?
Karen Mason: Hi. Actually cast don't really have any input into what songs they get to sing. We're all hired guns.
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): CEDwyer is back with this question
Question: What kind of musical training do you have?
Karen Mason: When I was growing up we had music around the house all the time. So I'm very familiar with music as communication. I've studied voice for 20 years and continue to try to learn as much as I can. I still can't read music very well but I have a fast ear.
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): Karen Received a 1993 Drama Desk Award nomination for playing Rosalie in "Carnival" as well as the Outer Critics Circle Award for "And the World Goes Round."
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): Here's a question from MCrawford
Question: Have you ever meet Andrew Lloyd Webber?
Karen Mason: Actually I have . . . he was very gracious in inviting me to his home to talk with me about "Sunset Blvd." right after the show closed in LA. He felt bad about the way the show closed before I got a chance to perform in it for the two weeks between Glenn Close and Faye Dunaway.
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): Keep a look out, this spring Karen will star in a new musical written for her by her long-time collaborator Brian Lasser called "One Tough Cookie" at the Apple Tree Theatre in Chicago. Karen. Can you tell us little about the role?
Karen Mason: It's the role of 'Maggie' who is a woman going back home after her father's death to help her Mother pack up and leave the family home. How she deals with going through her past and making revelations about her present and her future.
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): HalfElf12 asks
Question: How is it that the split scene is done at the end of Act I?
Karen Mason: In "Sunset Blvd.," at the end of Act 1 the mansion is hydraulically lifted and then other set pieces slide out underneath the mansion. It's the dangerous part of "Sunset Blvd.," but the stage management and the technical people are all incredibly competent so we feel safe.
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): Next Q up is from MClausi
Question: What are you in the show when you aren't Norma?
Karen Mason: I'm at home and on a pager. I don't have to be at the theatre unless I'm performing. Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): From Ponine!
Question: Out of curiosity, how often do you get called in to perform in "Sunset Blvd.?"
Karen Mason: In total I've worn the turban more than 50 times. Including doing just the second act.
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): Question from MGKane488
Question: Do you remember The Kanes?? When are you doing "One Tough Cookie?"
Karen Mason: You bet. How are you all? I'll be doing the "One Tough Cookie" in Chicago opening March 31 through the end of April and then back to the turban.
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): Q from JTroeh
Question: Hi, Karen! I love "Sunset." Any advice or words of wisdom for young stage actors?
Karen Mason: Hi. The only advice I can give is to just hang in there as long as you still enjoy what you are doing. When it stops being fun then it's time to find something else that will be fun for you. But the payoff is the work.
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): MCrawford is back with
Question: Karen I loved your work in "Torch Song Trilogy," but was it a difficult role for you to do given the subject matter of the play?
Karen Mason: Actually it was a honor to be part of that play. Harvey Fierstein is a brilliant writer and was very gracious to me considering all I did was sing in front of a piano.
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): LTraub's question
Question: Who are your favorite songwriters and what are your favorite songs?
Karen Mason: Hi LTraub - my favorite songwriters are Brian Lasser and my fiance Paul Rolnick. You may not know their names now but someday you will. They both write very sensitive and beautiful songs. Think I'm prejudiced?
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): This is a great lead in question for your re-issued recording. This is from Thespian8
Question: Is there a chance you will ever record songs from "Sunset?" By the way, I have "ATWGR" and, you're a very good singer, that's wonderful.
Karen Mason: The album I'm working one now is Brian's music. I hope to continue making albums and would love some someday to record "As If We Never Said Good-bye."
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): Can you tell us a little about your recording, "Not So Simply Broadway?" I understand it's a hot item within the theatre community.
Karen Mason: Thanks Katia. I'm very proud of this album and have re-issued it. Sales have been great and if anyone wants to buy it they can send for it.
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): Here's the address: Available via mail: c/o Zevely Records, 511 Ave of the Americas, P.O. Box 382, NYC, 10011. It's $21 ($16.99 P&S). Check or Money orders accepted.
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): Back to the questions.
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): From your pals the Kanes.
Question: When did you start your career with Brian Lasser?
Karen Mason: Hi MG Kane. I met Brian in 1976 at a restaurant in Chicago called "Lawrence of Oregano." He was the musical director and I auditioned. We really hit it off and continued working together for 16 yrs.
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): Q from Greg1
Question: What is your favorite part in the Show?
Karen Mason: Hey Greg...Aside from the curtain calls you mean?? I really love going mad in the second act. I've never gone mad in front of people before and it is really freeing.
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): Mkttrash needs your advice
Question: As a neophyte actor I've just done an understudy job and had trouble focusing. Any suggestions?
Karen Mason: That's probably the most difficult part of covering a role because you don't get to do the role over and over again. Just keep trying to be as prepared as possible so nothing will throw you.
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): JerseyRos asks
Question: Do you feel sympathy for Norma as you are playing the role?
Karen Mason: You can't feel those emotions - you can't do that while you are playing the role. You have to feel what Norma is feeìing at the moment. And she never feels sorry for herself. She is a survivor.
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): This comes from Chess1956
Question: Are you nervous about what the critics will say?
Karen Mason: I am always nervous about what critics will say but you have to remember it's one person's opinion and you can't base your entire career on an individual's opinion.
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): StarbuckD can't get enough of you:
Question: Hello again. I have one more question. Do you have any plans to tour your cabaret show? Maybe do something like Barbara Cook and Bernadette Peters have done and play with the local symphonies?
Karen Mason: Are you offering me a job? I'd love to do that. I've always wanted to sing with large symphonies, in fact, I sang at Carnegie Hall with the New York Pops recently and am talking with the Pops about future engagements.
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): This is from Cosmik
Question: When you're preparing a club show, what sources do you check for material? And if someone wanted to send you a song for consideration how would s/he do so?
Karen Mason: Cute Cosmik. Send any submissions to the Minskoff Theatre, 200 West 45th Street, NYC 10036. I always love hearing new music.
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): I think we have time for one more question this come from BGiJuggle
Question: What is your favorite play you have been in, and the one you most enjoyed watching????
Karen Mason: My favorite musical is "Funny Girl" -- it's a totally thrilling show. I've always enjoyed being able to sing that music and play 'Fanny Brice.' And my favorite show to watch (on TV) is "X Files."
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): I love that show too! Thank you Karen for chatting with us. You are certainly wonderful! I think you are ready for your close-up now
Karen Mason: Thanks Katia - this has been a lot of fun - me and my fingers would like to remind everybody I'll be in "Sunset Blvd." Jan 20 through Feb. 10 and then also at Rainbow and Stars February 25 and then in Chicago in "One Tough Cookie" in April. I hope to see some of you there. Thanks again.
Katia Lundy (Playbill On-Line): Thank you again. Good night one and all! And remember, for your premier theatre source, turn to Playbill On-Line!
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