BWW Interview: Karen Mason Comes to Baltimore Playing 'Madame Giry' in Andrew Lloyd Webber's LOVE NEVER DIES
Baltimore used to be a stopping off point for pre-Broadway musicals like Philadelphia and Boston. It's great that Baltimore once again is having the privilege with the U.S. premiere of LOVE NEVER DIES by Andrew Lloyd Webber which is lucky to star actress Karen Mason.
Mason has a long pedigree when it comes to musical theater. She received a 2002 Drama Desk nomination for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as "Tanya" in MAMMA MIA! in the Original Broadway Cast, has played "Velma" in HAIRSPRAY, "Norma" in SUNSET BOULEVARD, Jerome Robbins' BROADWAY, and TORCH SONG TRILOGY.
She is well known for her work as a cabaret singer and is a 12 time "MAC" Award winner (Manhattan Association for Cabaret and Club Performers). She loves doing cabaret work and added, "It was a nice honor by my fellow singers and club owners." She also has 7 solo CD'S to her credit. Two of her CDs will be for sale at the Hippodrome.
She is so excited to be making her Baltimore debut in Andrew Lloyd Webber's LOVE NEVER DIES as it plays its first special preview engagement at Baltimore's Hippodrome Theatre prior to its official opening of its North American Tour.
Mason plays the complex role of "Madame Giry" who you may recall was the "Ballet Mistriss" of the "Corps de Ballet" (always with her dance stick) in the original PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, the longest running show in Broadway history now in its 30th year.
This sequel takes place in 1907 some ten years after the Phantom disappears from the Paris Opera House at the end of PHANTOM and heads to Coney Island, New York, where he performs. His love interest Christine Daye, who has become one of the world's finest sopranos, accepts an invitation to travel from Paris to perform in a renowned Opera House in New York City. The "Phantom" lures her, her husband "Raoul" and young son Gustave to Coney Island. Her marriage is suffering from his drinking and gambling and they need the financial rewards they hope to achieve in the United States
What is "Madame Giry" really like? According to Mason, "She's fantastic. I love her because she a protector, a lioness protecting her den and has made a life for herself and her daughter "Meg". She has fled Paris to Coney Island to protect "The Phantom" to start a new life. She rescued him from a freak show when he was a child...saw how ill-treated and abused he was and became his protector his whole life. She rescues him again in Coney Island where he creates his new "Mr. Y's Phantasma, a Coney Island circus/freak show for which he composes music." She adds, "The show stands alone. One does not need to have seen the original to enjoy this. You will be able to understand the characters without know the back story. This new musical goes into much more depth of the principal characters and delves into their relationships."
I spoke to her while she was in Utica, NY at the historic Stanley Theatre built in 1925 where the musical is going through rehearsals and to work out technical issues and will perform three previews.
Since its premiere in 2010, LOVE NEVER DIES has enjoyed productions worldwide in London, Australia, Denmark, Japan, and Germany, and has multiple recordings including a concept album and a London cast recording. The new touring production will reflect an extensive re-working of the material by an Australian creative team who did the original Australian premiere in 2011. It is directed by Simon Phillips (PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT THE MUSICAL) with new sets and costume designs by Gabriela Tylesova, choreography by 2011 Astaire Awards winner Graeme Murphy, lighting design by Nick Schlieper and sound design by Mick Potter. It is one of the few instances of a major London West End musical given a complete makeover.
Mason is unsure if the composer will be attending the premiere in Baltimore. She first met Webber in 1994 when she was the cover/standby for Glenn Close, Betty Buckley, and Elaine Paige in SUNSET BOULEVARD.
When I asked her if Broadway was in the future for LOVE NEVER DIES she responded, "Every time you do a new project you hope to go to Broadway. It would be nice to be home and working. I think Broadway audiences would love this show...it has passion. Glen Slater's lyrics are fantastic. I am honored to a part of this incredible show. It's a great opportunity to work with Webber again. One does not find this synergy in a company this often. It has been a lovely gift.
I was fortunate to see Mason in her iconic role of "Tanya" in MAMMA MIA! I asked her how her audition of this mega hit was. "I got a call back for "Tanya" dressed in gold satin cigarette pants, a real architectural push up bra and very high heels and tight chignon hair."
She described what it was like to perform MAMMA MIA! following 9/11. It was an amazing experience. Broadway needed something like this. The energy in the theater after the show and during the three song encore, the mega mix, was thrilling. The energy from the audience standing, clapping and singing was amazing. They were able to release being able to remember what joy was like and being silly. I was honored to get a Drama Desk Nomination and to perform on the Tony Awards since MAMMA MIA! was nominated for Best Musical. (THOROUGLY MODERN MILLIE beat it out).
It is always thrilling and exciting to get a nomination. It's a nice thank you. It is also terrific to give autographs after a show. I'm always happy when someone comes up and gives you an affirmation. It's fantastic."
You can also head to the Hippodrome's backstage door and show your affirmation after the show.
For LOVE NEVER DIES tickets, call 800-982-ARTS or at the Hippodrome Box Office located at 12 N. Eutaw Street, Baltimore, MD as well as Ticketmaster locations.
For information on Mason, visit www.karenmason.com.