It certainly seems like it’s going to be Karen Mason’s year. After receiving wonderful notices for her comedic turn in what promises to be this year’s biggest hit, Mamma Mia, Mason is set to release her latest CD, “When the Sun Comes Out” on Jerome Records (in association with Zevely Records). The former standby to the stars in Sunset Boulevard has recorded many of the songs that were a part of her recent, wonderful cabaret act at Arci’s Place in New York City, and like her live show, the CD is a pure joy. What has always made Mason such a great cabaret performer (besides the voice) is her innate comedic ability: She is able to inject a note of comedic irony while singing a dramatic piece, and, conversely, she can make an otherwise lighthearted song have a weightier emotional impact.
Mason begins her 14-track disc with a medley of songs made famous by another Norma Desmond, Petula Clark: “Downtown” and “I Know a Place.” Mason actually just includes a tantalizing phrase from “Downtown” and then segues into an upbeat version of Tony Hatch’s “I Know a Place.” She follows with a wonderful reading of the Gershwin classic, “How Long Has This Been Going On?” and then pours her heart into Paul Rolnick’s “We Never Ran Out of Love (We Just Ran Out of Time).” She offers a toe-tapping rendition of “Taking a Chance on Love,” and one of the disc’s highlights follows, a beautiful, gentle reading of Carol King and Gerry Goffin’s “Up on the Roof,” which Mason sings mostly in sweet head tones. Other highlights include a deeply felt interpretation of the standard “It Had To Be You”; a belty version of the disc’s title tune, the Harold Arlen torch song “When the Sun Comes Out”; an impassioned “I Wanna Be Around,” which Mason mines for all its dramatic, vengeful worth; and a terrific pairing of Jerry Herman’s “I Promise You a Happy Ending” with Cy Coleman and Michael Stewart’s “Hey There, Good Times.” As a bonus, Mason has also included a magnificently sung ABBA tune, “I Have a Dream.” “Karen Mason: When the Sun Comes Out” is a perfect gift for the diva lover on your holiday list!
After a triumphant run as Liza in Lady in the Dark, one of cabaret’s finest, Andrea Marcovicci, will return to the Algonquin Hotel’s Oak Room on Dec. 11. Marcovicci’s newest show is entitled “One Life to Live: A Celebration of Gertrude Lawrence,” and you can expect to hear the chanteuse perform such songs as “My Ship,” “Parisian Pierrot,” “A Cup of Coffee, A Sandwich and You,” “Hello Young Lovers” and “Someone to Watch Over Me.” Backed by Shelly Markham on piano, Marcovicci will begin her engagement on Tuesday, Dec. 11 and conclude on Saturday, Jan. 12. Show times are Tuesday through Thursday evenings at 9PM and Friday and Saturdays at 9PM and 11:30 PM. There will be no performances on Dec. 25 and Jan. 1; however, special shows have been added on Sundays, Dec. 26 and Jan. 7 at 8PM. There is a $50 music charge at all performances as well as a $15 minimum for the late shows and a $50 prix fixe dinner required at all other shows. The Algonquin Hotel is located at 59 West 44th Street; call (212) 840-6800 for reservations.
IN OTHER NEWS: You can celebrate the holidays with Jamie deRoy and friends when the comedienne/singer/hostess-with-the mostes' emcees a special show on Sunday, Dec. 9 at 7 PM at the West Bank Cafe’s Laurie Beechman Theater (407 W. 42nd Street). The program will feature many tunes and performers from deRoy’s latest CD, “Jamie deRoy & Friends: ‘Tis the Season Volume 3.” (For those who don’t yet own the CD, it’s worth it just to hear Anne Runolfsson’s sublime rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “River.”) Those scheduled to appear include Kim Cea, Lisa Asher, Kelli O’Hara, Stephanie Pope, KT Sullivan, Deborah Tranelli plus The Accidentals, Scott Coulter, Eric Michael Gillett, Jeff Harnar, Craig Rubano, Sal Viviano and Tommy Femia as Judy Garland. Rumor has it that Loni Ackerman, a former Evita, will premiere a new song by Sheldon Harnick and David Shire, “Eternal Light,” from their upcoming Miracles. There is a $20 cover and a one-drink minimum; call (212) 695-6909. I’ll be there, so come and say hello! . . . The late Nancy LaMott’s music will be featured during this Sunday’s (Dec. 2) radio broadcast of “Everything Old Is New Again.” You can expect to hear such LaMott standards as “Beautiful Baby,” David Friedman’s “Listen to My Heart” and “Just in Time for Christmas” plus Annie Dinerman’s “The Lady Down the Hall” and the Portia Nelson charmer, “As I Remember Him.” The program will also give away two DVDs of “Judy Garland’s Songs for America.” Diva fans take note: the Dec. 9 broadcast will include an interview with Mamma Mia’s Karen Mason. “Everything Old Is New Again” can be heard Sunday from 9 to 11 PM over WBAI 99.5 FM and on the internet at www.2600.com/offthehook/hot2.ram . . . Congratulations to Liza Minnelli who recently announced her engagement to showman David Gest. I have to admit that I had to laugh at an item in Liz Smith’s recent New York Post column. Smith wrote that Minnelli is in “better voice than ever, doing five octaves without a strain.” Now, Minnelli certainly can still sing, but five octaves! I would say in her prime Minnelli probably had about two-to-three octaves, but five! Poetic license, I guess! . . . “Varla-la la-la, la-la-la-la” is the name of Varla Jean Merman’s upcoming Town Hall benefit concert for God’s Love We Deliver. Varla Jean will be joined by Kristine Zbornik, BETTY, Jackie Hoffman, The Kinsey Sicks, Maggie Moore and comedian/musician Seth Rudetsky. Featuring direction by Gordon Greenberg, Varla Jean fans will get to watch Miss Merman take on the Grinch and Shirley Bassey in “Silver and Goldfinger” as well as witness a reunion of Miss Merman and her estranged late mother (it’s rumored that Varla Jean is the love child of Ethel Merman and Ernest Borgnine). “Varla-la-la-la” will take place on Monday, Dec. 17 at 8 PM; Town Hall is located at 123 W. 43rd Street, and tickets -- ranging from $25-$75 -- are available by calling (212) 307-4100 or in person at the Town Hall box office . . .Quotable Quote: About Elaine Stritch, who is currently starring in her one-woman show, Elaine Stritch at Liberty, The New York Times’ Margo Jefferson recently had this to say: “She’s not one of the old-time musical stars like [Ethel] Merman, who delivered the same goods in the same superlative way time and again. She’s utterly unpredictable in timing, phrasing and diction. Her body is syncopated -- none of that straight-on-the-beat line emphasis time and again. You never know quite when an arm, a sudden lean forward will inflect a word or phase, give it a jolt or sneaky twist. You feel the control of her sardonic humor, and then you get a series of emotional detonations.” . . . Save the date: This year’s Broadway Holiday Tree lighting ceremony will be held in Duffy Square (Broadway and 46th Street) on Wednesday, Dec. 12 at 5:15 PM.
That Tony-winning dynamo, Betty Buckley, has just released a new slate of concert performances, which follows:
December 6 at Abravenal Hall with the Utah Symphony in Salt Lake City, UT (Xmas program)
December 7 at the Ellen Eccles Theatre in Logan, UT
December 27 at the Verizon Regional Performing Arts Center in Philadelphia, PA (with Michael Feinstein)
January 4 & 5, 2002 at the Bushnell Auditorium in Hartford, CT
March 15 & 16, 2002 with the North Carolina Symphony in Raleigh, NC
March 30 at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, CA
April 12 and 13 with Marilyn Horne at Michigan State University’s Warton Center in MI
April 26 at Symphony Hall in Boston, MA
June 5-9 and June 12-16 at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theatre in Washington, DC
Eder in concert:
Dec. 1 at the State Theatre in Easton, PA (610-252-3132)
Dec. 5 at the Papermill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ, (973) 376-4343
Dec. 11 at Symphony Hall in Boston, MA, (617) 266-1492
Dec. 14 and 15 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, (800) 444-1324
The Tony and Olivier Award-winning actress has also just released a whole new slew of concert dates, which follow:
February 9, 2002 at the Tilles Center with the Long Island Philharmonic (“Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda”)
February 22-23, 2002 at the Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo, NY with the Buffalo Philharmonic (“Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda”)
February 28 at Carnegie Hall in New York, NY (“Coulda Woulda Shoulda”)
Jan. 4, 2002 at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater
Jan. 6 at the Barbara Mann Hall in Ft. Myers
Jan. 7 at Van Wezel Hall in Sarasota
Jan. 9 at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach
Jan. 10 at the City Center in Coral Springs
Apr. 5-6 at the OCPAC in Costa Mesa
Well, that’s all for now. Happy diva-watching!
By Andrew Gans