DIVA TALK: The Cabaret Column, Featuring a chat with Karen Mason

News   DIVA TALK: The Cabaret Column, Featuring a chat with Karen Mason
This week, Karen Mason began a lengthy run at Arci’s Place, one of the city’s newest cabaret rooms. Mason, who received much critical acclaim when she was the standby-to-the-stars in Broadway’s Sunset Boulevard, has long been one of the brightest lights on the New York cabaret scene. I recently had the chance to chat with this charming performer, and the Q&A with the talented songstress follows. If you’re in the metropolitan area, be sure to catch Mason in action; you will not be disappointed . . . Arci’s Place is located at 450 Park Avenue South. There is a $30 cover and a $15 food/drink minimum; call (212) 532-4370 for reservations.

This week, Karen Mason began a lengthy run at Arci’s Place, one of the city’s newest cabaret rooms. Mason, who received much critical acclaim when she was the standby-to-the-stars in Broadway’s Sunset Boulevard, has long been one of the brightest lights on the New York cabaret scene. I recently had the chance to chat with this charming performer, and the Q&A with the talented songstress follows. If you’re in the metropolitan area, be sure to catch Mason in action; you will not be disappointed . . . Arci’s Place is located at 450 Park Avenue South. There is a $30 cover and a $15 food/drink minimum; call (212) 532-4370 for reservations.

Q This is your second show at Arci's Place. How was your first experience there?
Karen Mason Well, I really love playing Arci's Place, and the first experience was so much fun that I am now doing six weeks at the club! The room is very bright and happy -- plays right into my perkiness. Really, it makes me happy to work there. The lights and sound are fantastic, the sight lines are great for me, the audiences are warm . . . what could be wrong! And John Miller, who owns Arci’s Place, and his staff always make me feel right at home. The food is great, and my husband gets to enjoy some of John's great wine list.

Q Tell me about your new show. Is there a theme to this act? What new songs will you be featuring?
KM I have been avoiding ‘theme shows’ for my entire career! I don't know why, just a personal preference, but I never felt comfortable with that concept. So, how did we end up doing a show of standards? I have heard for quite a few years that I should do a show of standards, and I just felt that others were doing that type of show. But, somehow, I decided that this was a challenge for me, and I wanted to meet this challenge. Now, we are doing the ‘standards’ show using songs from all parts of the music biz . . . from theatre, pop, comedy, but it has certainly been a fun journey. Barry Kleinbort and Christopher Denny are great collaborators with me, and I love working with them -- always a wonderful challenge! The show is featuring songs like ‘It Had To Be You,’ ‘When in Rome. . .,’ ‘Being Alive,’ ‘Steppin' Out,’ ‘Up On the roof.’ So you see, a wide variety of standards! [see below for Mason’s song list].

Q How do you go about finding material for your shows?
KM Barry, Chris and I each bring our ideas to the table, and then we just keep trying to find what seems interesting, and some things really work, and some things may have to wait until another show. I also have to do what I feel works for me, but also try not to be afraid of new types of songs. It is easy to just get really comfortable and never want to stray from what you feel works for you, but how boring is that?!

QWill you be performing either of the Sunset Boulevard ‘arias’ at Arci's Place? How is it different performing those songs in a club setting versus onstage in a theatre?
KM At first, we were going to include a theatre section, but somehow it just never worked out. So, no, there will be no Sunset songs. The thing that is the most different in a club is that you don't have the entire story before the song to set it up. So I like to do a bit of an intro that tells the story -- even though I know everyone knows it -- but really sets up the songs. It just helps for the audience, and it really helps me.
Q Speaking of Sunset, how do you think your time in that show affected your career? Do you think you reached a higher level of visibility?
KM I really believe each step along the way increases my visibility. But, yes, certainly, there were moments during that long run, which made me more visible. And I was happy to get the support I did during the show. Standing by for a star like Glenn Close was of interest to a lot of people. “What was it like?” “How did the audiences respond?” -- questions like that were of interest, and I was happy to receive the attention. I worked very hard on that role, and once audiences got over the disappointment of not seeing Glenn, they knew they were seeing a strong performance -- a different performance, but a strong one nonetheless. And the company of Sunset was a very talented group of people, who were always willing to share their gifts. It was a great experience. I think personally, I found out that I could do it -- that I could go out and fill in for a star, do my performance and get the standing ovations. That is a very powerful thing to know about yourself.

Q You recently starred in a stage version of White Christmas. Tell me about that experience. Any chance you might take it to Broadway?
KM It was great fun. What a fantastic group of people working on this show! Of course, wearing winter clothes during the summer in St. Louis in an outdoor theatre, was probably the biggest challenge, but we had a ball. Lara Teeter, Lee Roy Reams, Lauren Kennedy, Karen Morrow, Howard Keel, Charlie Repole, Thommie Walsh, Paul Blake . . . what an amazing group of creative people! There was a lot of interest in the show, and it would be great to be able to do it in New York. To not have to travel for a while would be great. So light those votive candles!

Q Are you working on any new recordings?
KM We have been talking about that, but I have been out of town so much, it hasn't really worked out. But I think we are just going to make the time soon. I really have so much material that would make a great CD now, [and] I am ready to go into the studio.

Q When you're working in a club setting, singing several shows per week, how do you guard your voice? Do you still study voice?
KM Doing seven shows a week, with each show being about 75 minutes each, is a lot of singing. I do try to be as quiet as possible -- without being too crazy -- but I try to go to the gym to get my breathing going, and just be as good to myself as possible. And, yes, I still study. I go as often as possible to keep learning new things about my voice. I am studying with a fantastic teacher now, Bill Schuman, who is expanding my abilities. It is always fun to have new options.

Q What would you like to see happen for Karen Mason in the year to come?
KM I would really love to be home for a while to be with my husband and my friends and family. I would love to create a role on Broadway (and of course win a Tony!). I would love to do another CD. I would love to do a concert in a theatre with an orchestra, working with all my favorite people and singing fantastic songs to sold-out crowds. Am I asking too much!? Other than that, I would love to just be healthy, happy, to keep on singing and have enough money to go shopping every once in a while!

Karen Mason’s Song List at Arci’s Place
“Tonight” (Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim) and “Out of This World” (Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer)
“Steppin’ Out with My Baby” (Irving Berlin)
“How Long Has This Been Going On” (George & Ira Gershwin)
“You and I” (Leslie Bricusse)
“When in Rome” (Cy Coleman/Carolyn Leigh)
“The Boy From . . .” (Mary Rodgers/Stephen Sondheim)
“Takin’ a Chance on Love” (Vernon Duke/John LaTouche & Ted Fetter)
“It Had To Be You” (Isham Jones/Gus Kahn)
“When the Sun Comes Out” (Harold Arlen/Ted Koehler)
“Pick Yourself Up” (Jerome Kern/Dorothy Fields)
“Up on the Roof” (Gerry Goffin/Carole King)
“We Never Ran Out of Love” (Paul Rolnick)
“Help” (Paul McCartney/John Lennon) and “Being Alive” (Stephen Sondheim)
“Everything Old Is New Again” (Peter Allen/Carole Bayer Sager)
“Look for the Silver Lining” (Jerome Kern/B. G. DeSylva)

And, finally, what follows is Mason’s up-to-date performance schedule:
Sept. 6 - Oct. 15 Returns to Arci’s Place, 450 Park Avenue South; NYC; (212) 532-4370
Oct. 10 Karen joins editor Sherry Eaker at book launch party for the Cabaret Artist’s Handbook at Don’t Tell Mama
Oct. 16 Gala Opening of the Cabaret Convention at Town Hall, NYC
Oct. 17 Appearance at ASCAP evening at the Cabaret Convention at Town Hall, NYC
Nov. 1-12 Appearance at The Plush Room in San Francisco’s York Hotel; (415) 885-2800
Nov. 5 Special appearance at MaraLago in Palm Beach, FL
Dec. 6-10 Karen performs her Christmas Show at Davenports in Chicago, IL (773) 278-1830
Dec. 15-17, 22-23 Karen celebrates Christmas with conductor John McDaniel and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra at Powell Symphony Hall in St. Louis, MO
March 17 Appearance at 92nd Street Y with Craig Carnelia in New York, NY

I recently received a handful of new Linda Eder concert dates, which follow. Eder’s other performances can be found in the “Reminders” at the end of the column:
Oct. 29 at Symphony Hall in Boston, Ma. (617) 266-1492
Nov. 3 at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, PA (215) 572-7650
Dec. 6 at the Ordway Center for the Perf. Arts in St. Paul, MN (651) 224 4222
Jan. 20, 2001 with the Boca Pops at Florida Atlantic Univ in Boca Raton, FL; go to: www.bocapops.org
Feb. 3 at the Vilar Center for the Arts in Beaver Creek, CO; (888) 920 2787
Feb. 24 at the Community Theatre in Morristown, NJ; (973) 539-8008

IN OTHER NEWS That “Simply Barbra” guy, Steven Brinberg, will return to his New York haunt, Don’t Tell Mama, tomorrow night, Saturday, Sept. 9, to perform the newest version of his tribute to the legendary star of stage and screen. Brinberg is just back from a tour of London and Scotland, and he is in the process of completing the final mix of his second CD, “Simply Barbra: Duets.” Speaking of Ms. Streisand, the real Babs will release her “Timeless” double-CD concert performance on Sept. 19 . . . Feinstein’s at the Regency, New York’s newest cabaret room, salutes the leading ladies of American popular song this fall with a line up that boasts Cleo Laine, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Polly Bergen and Tony winner Barbara Cook. Michael Feinstein’s club, which has become one of New York’s most popular hot spots since its debut last October, will host this wonderful array of leading ladies. Cleo Laine begins the fall season on Sept. 12 and continues through Sept. 23. Next up is Dee Dee Bridgewater, who will perform at the plush cabaret room from Sept. 26 through Oct. 7. Polly Bergen, who is best known to fans for her signature tune “The Party’s Over,” will grace the stage from Oct. 20 to Oct. 21, and the remarkable Barbara Cook will finish the fall season from Oct. 24 through Nov. 25. Feinstein's at The Regency is located at 540 Park Avenue at 61st Street; show times are Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 8:30 PM with additional shows on Friday and Saturdays at 11 PM. Call (212) 339-4095 for reservations . . . More Cook news: On Sept. 27 the singing actress will hold a concert in the elegant home of producer John Bowab in the Hollywood Hills. The evening of song will benefit “Aid for AIDS,” and tickets, which are priced at $135, are available by calling Tom Robbins at (323) 656-1107, ext. 111 . . . Nancy Dussault, who has appeared on Broadway in Side By Side By Sondheim, Do Re Mi, Bajour, The Sound of Music and Into the Woods, will present her one woman show, Heart and Soul, in The Jazz Side at Les Zygomates Wine Bar & Bistro, which is located in Boston on South Street. Dussault will perform on Sept. 15, 16 and 17; call (617) 542-5108 to catch Dussault’s newest act . . . Singer Julie Nemitz will perform the work of several contemporary songwriters in her new act, Let Love Lead the Way, at Don’t Tell Mama (343 W. 46th St, NYC). You can expect to hear the works of Tom Andersen, David Friedman, Ann Hampton Callaway, Christine Lavin, David Budway and several other terrific writers at Nemitz’s show, which runs Sept. 20, 27 and Oct. 4. All shows begin at 7 PM; call (212) 757-0788 for tickets . . . Following her acclaimed performance at New Jersey’s The Manor, Bistro Award-winning singer Barbara Fasano will perform her new program, In the Still of the Night -- with music ranging from Cole Porter to James Taylor -- on three Sunday evenings this month (Sept. 10, 17 and 24). Fasano will be accompanied by Rick Jensen, and tickets are available by calling the FireBird Cafe (West 46th Street) at (212) 586-0244 . . . And, finally, the award-winning variety series, Jamie de Roy & Friends, continues at the Laurie Beechman Theater at the West Bank Cafe on Saturdays, Sept. 9, 16 and 23. Call (212) 695-6909 for reservations and more information.


U.S. Concert Schedule:
Sept. 19 in Portland, ME
Sept. 20 in Rochester, NY at the Auditorium Centre
Sept. 22 in New York, NY at the Theatre @ MSG
Sept. 23 in Atlantic City, NJ at the Mark G. Etess Arena
Sept. 24 in Wallingford, CT at the Oakdale Theater
Sept. 26 in Providence, RI at the PAC
Sept. 27 in Lowell, MA at the Memorial Auditorium
Sept. 29 in Philadelphia, PA at the Mann Center
Sept. 30 in Washington, DC at the Patriot Center
Oct. 2 in Norfolk, VA at the Scope Arena
Oct. 4 in Miami, FL at the AA Arena /Nat. Car Rental Arena
Oct. 5 in Tampa, FL at the Ice Palace
Oct. 6 in Atlanta, GA at the Civic Center
Oct. 8 in New Orleans, LA at the Saenger Theatre
Oct. 9 in Dallas, TX at the Reunion Arena/Starplex Amph.
Oct. 10 in Houston, TX at the Aerial Theatre
Oct. 13 in Columbus, OH at the Nationwide Arena
Oct. 14 in Detroit, MI at the Palace
Oct. 15 in Cleveland, OH at the CSU Convocation Centre
Oct. 17 in St. Paul, MN at the Minn. Wild Arena
Oct. 20 in Las Vegas, NV at the MGM Grand
Oct. 21 in Santa Barbara, CA at the Santa Barbara Bowl
Oct. 22 in San Diego, CA at the SDSU Open Air Theatre
Oct. 24 in Los Angeles, CA at the Universal Amphitheatre
Oct. 26 in Sacramento, CA at the Arco Arena
Oct. 27 in San Jose, CA at the San Jose Arena
Oct. 29 in Portland, OR at the Rose Garden
Oct. 31 in Seattle, WA at the Paramount/Key Arena
Nov. 5 in Spokane, WA at the Arena
Nov. 7 in Salt Lake City, UT at the Delta Center
Nov. 8 in Denver, CO at the Magness Arena
Nov. 11 in Chicago, IL at the Arie Crown
Nov. 13 in St. Louis, MO
Nov. 14 in Grand Rapids, MI at the Van Andel Arena
Nov. 15 in Milwaukee, WI at the Riverside Theatre

Several new concert dates have been added to BB’s always-growing schedule:

Sept. 9 & 10 Robert Park Auditorium in Taunton, MA
Sept. 15 Southern Theater in Columbus, OH
Sept. 16 Stranahan Theatre in Toledo, OH
Oct. 6 & 7 Scottsdale Center for the Arts Theatre in Scottsdale, AZ
Oct. 28 Univ. of Texas Cowan Fine & Perf. Arts Center in Tyler, TX
Nov. 10 & 11 University of Connecticut in Storrs, CT
Jan. 5, 2001 Koger Center for the Arts (Univ. of SC) in Columbia, SC
Jan. 6 Georgia Institute of Technology Center for the Arts in Atlanta, GA
Jan. 19-28 Florida Condo Tour in Florida
March 3 at the Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA
May 12 at the College of Staten Island’s Center for the Arts in Staten Island, NY
June 17 at the Le Petit Theatre in New Orleans, LA

Cook’s concert itinerary follows:

Sept. 14 at the Poway Center for the Perf. Arts in Poway, CA
Sept. 21 & 22 at the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia
Sept. 28 - Oct. 1 at the Orange County Perf. Arts Center in Costa Mesa, CA
Oct. 20 & 21 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC
Dec. 5 at the Papermill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ
Feb. 2, 2001 at Carnegie Hall in New York, NY
Feb. 23 and 24 with Michael Feinstein at the Cerritos Center for the Perf. Arts in Cerritos, CA

Eder in concert:
Sept. 26 at the Jones Hall w/Houston Symphony in Houston, TX; call (713) 224-7575
Nov. 17 at the State Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ; call (732) 246-SHOW
Nov. 18 at the State Theatre in Easton, PA; call (610) 252-3132
Nov. 19 at the Strand-Capitol Theatre in York, Penn.
Jan. 12 & 13, 2001 in Charlotte, NC at the North Carolina Blumenthal Performing Arts Center; (704) 372-1000
Jan. 21 in Naples, FL at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts; (941) 597 1900
Feb. 1 & 2 in Phoenix, AZ at the Orpheum Theatre
Feb. 15-17 in Washington, D.C. at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; (202) 467-4600
Feb. 23 at the Westbury Music Fair in Long Island, NY; call (516) 334 0800
March 8 in Clearwater, FL at the Ruth Eckerd Hall; (727) 791-7400
March 9 in Sarasota, FL at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall; www.vanwezel.org
March 10 in Melbourne, FL at the Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts; (407) 242-2219
May 31-June 3 in Pittsburgh, PA at Heinz Hall; call (412) 392-4900

Several concert dates have been added to Patti LuPone’s ever-growing schedule. What follows are La LuPone’s confirmed concert appearances as of this week:
Sept. 9 ("Matters of the Heart") at the Valentine Theatre in Toledo, Ohio; (419) 242-2787
Sept. 23 at the University of Maine in Orono; (800) 622-8499
Oct. 7 ("Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda") with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra in Birmingham, Alabama; (205) 458-8401
Nov. 3 ("Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda") with the Louisville Symphony Orchestra in Louisville, Kentucky (502) 583-4555
April 8 ("Matters Of The Heart") at Duke University’s Page Auditorium in Durham, North Carolina; (919) 684-4444
Jan. 5-7, 2001 at the Morton J. Myerson Symphony Center in Dallas, TX (214) 871-4000

Audra McDonald’s most recent concert listing follows:
Sept. 28-30 with the National Symphony Orchestra
Oct. 7 in Atlanta, GA (venue to be announced)
Oct. 14 in Hershey, PA (venue to be announced)
Oct. 21 in Los Angeles, CA at UCLA’s Royce Hall
Oct. 22 in San Diego, CA (venue to be announced)
Oct. 28 in Fort Worth, TX (venue to be announced)

Now through Oct. 14 at the Algonquin Hotel in New York, NY
Oct. 23 Lauri Strauss Leukemia Foundation Benefit Concert with the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall in New York, NY
Dec. 8-11 Holiday concert with the Oregon Symphony in Portland, OR
Dec. 12 Holiday concert with the Oregon Symphony in Salem, OR

The two-time Tony winner will conclude her run in Annie Get Your Gun on September 2, when she will begin a U.S. concert tour:
Sept. 15 at the Starlight Theatre in Kansas City (with symphony)
Sept. 22 at the Mann Music Center in Philadelphia
Oct. 6 at the Einsenhower Hall Theatre in West Point, NY
Oct. 7 at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ
Oct. 13 at the OnCenter War Memorial in Syracuse, NY
Jan. 5, 2001 at PAC in Tulsa, Oklahoma (with symphony)
Jan. 11 at the Leon County Civic Center in Tallahassee
Jan. 13 at the Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater
March 29 at Proctor’s Theatre in Schenectady, NY
April 6 at the Bass Perf. Hall in Fort Worth, TX (with symphony)
April 7-8 at the Grand 1894 Opera House in Galveston, TX
April 19 at the Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto (with symphony)
April 28 at the Pasquerilla PAC in Johnstown, PA
May 11-12 at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, MN (with symphony)
May 18-20 at the Myerson Hall in Dallas, TX (with symphony)

Former star of Broadway’s Jekyll & Hyde, Christiane Noll will be hitting the concert circuit, performing throughout the USA. Noll will join other Broadway names in this concert tour, backed by some of the world’s greatest orchestras. Her complete schedule follows:
Sept. 22 with the Nashua Symphony in Nashua, NH; (800) 639-3101
Oct. 14 with the Cape Symphony Orchestra at the Barnstable Performing Arts Center in Hyannis, MA (508) 362-1111
Dec. 2 with Doug LaBrecque and Michael Maguire and the New London Symphony in New London, CT
Dec. 7-17 The Magic of Christmas with the Portland Symphony in Portland, ME; (207) 842-0800

Well, that’s all for now. Happy diva-watching!

By Andrew Gans

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