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BWW Review: With an Encore of Her BIRTHDAY BASH! at Feinstein's/54 Below Karen Mason Shines As Bright As Ever

The cabaret great returns to 54 Below with her sold-out concert.

BWW Review: With an Encore of Her BIRTHDAY BASH! at Feinstein's/54 Below Karen Mason Shines As Bright As Ever

This week Karen Mason returned to Feinstein's/54 Below with a 2021 cabaret show so popular that it was sold out weeks in advance. Even this writer could not secure a place at the table for the "Birthday Bash" show, so the encore performance on Wednesday night was sort of an early birthday present for me (early by six months). Although the title of Ms. Mason's show referred to her birthday, she explained in her opening monologue that the birthday to which the name refers was the one that occurred before the pandemic: this was a show that had to be canceled for covid. In the time that has passed since that postponement, Mason has had two more birthdays, introduced a regularly scheduled music program onto the internet, notably changed her hairstyle, survived a global health crisis, and recorded a cd. That album's title, "Let The Music Play" has become the second (or sub) title of this particular concert, one informed by some material from her first post-quarantine show named "Vaccinatin' Rhythm." The truth is that 54 Below could have used their website to announce a show called "Karen Mason Singing" and the people would have come. All it takes to get Karen Mason on your calendar is knowing where and when she is going to show up and sing - and it is worth the effort taken to get there. It doesn't matter if there is a variant raging and clubs are closing, it doesn't matter if it is thirteen degrees outside, it doesn't matter if a person is tired and cranky and doesn't want to leave the house on a Wednesday night: if Karen Mason on a stage, the people will come. And the people should come because nobody is Karen Mason and nobody can do what she does. She is a true original with a style and a talent all her own, and Wednesday night she proved it again, for (something like) the four hundred and twenty-seven thousandth time.

BWW Review: With an Encore of Her BIRTHDAY BASH! at Feinstein's/54 Below Karen Mason Shines As Bright As Ever Looking statuesque and chic in shades of Earth and glamorous chunky jewelry, the silver-topped songstress gave her grateful audience eighty minutes of non-stop entertainment as she presented old tunes with freshened-up lyrics by Barry Kleinbort, new compositions from her latest album, and significant songs from her life in the theater. It has been an enviable theatrical career that has allowed Mason-ites to see the singing actress play roles in Mamma Mia!, Sunset Boulevard, Jerome Robbins' Broadway, and a beloved off-Broadway revue of Kander & Ebb songs, and even though Karen Mason is a gifted actress of note, there is something truly special about the way her art and her persona fit into the small venue genre. Karen Mason relates with magnificent ease to her audience as she tells the tales of her life and shares the stories in her songs. In her ongoing chat with the audience, there is tangible evidence that her musical play has been scripted and rehearsed - segments about each of the Broadway plays she has done are too well-timed to be extemporaneous, and she and director Kleinbort are both artists that require rehearsal that will lay a solid show foundation that gives wings to emotion in the moment. There are clear signs of when Ms. Mason is in real-time with her onstage partners, Musical Director Christopher Denny and bassist Tom Hubbard, there is a discernible change in the air's energy when she breaks from her script for a one-on-one with the audience, and there are professionally seamless transitions from story into song as she uses humor and heart to inspire laughter and tears. And though Karen Mason is a very funny lady, tears can be expected at her shows. They're not sad tears but they are emotional. All it takes for Karen Mason to make a person cry is just a few bars of "I have a Dream" from Mamma Mia!... there is something so personal in her performance of that simple little ABBA song that tells the audience just a little more about Karen and about that song than they might, previously, have thought they knew.

BWW Review: With an Encore of Her BIRTHDAY BASH! at Feinstein's/54 Below Karen Mason Shines As Bright As Ever

BWW Review: With an Encore of Her BIRTHDAY BASH! at Feinstein's/54 Below Karen Mason Shines As Bright As Ever Or "Colored Lights" - a song that came to Karen Mason by way of the (aforementioned) revue And The World Goes Round - might be a tearful moment for some who have, for years, been swept away by an arrangement and performance so individual that it has become a staple in the Karen Mason catalog. The acting and singing skills on display during the number from The Rink are enough to melt even the coldest heart frozen by winter climes. But nothing could compare to the incomparable thrill of seeing Karen Mason recreate the Paramount Studios homecoming of Norma Desmond. Having the K&E and ALW numbers occur back to back in the program warrants having a hankie in your top pocket when you enter the club, and the experience is proof positive of the weight of Karen Mason's contribution to the art of musical storytelling, alone worth the price of an evening out.

BWW Review: With an Encore of Her BIRTHDAY BASH! at Feinstein's/54 Below Karen Mason Shines As Bright As Ever

BWW Review: With an Encore of Her BIRTHDAY BASH! at Feinstein's/54 Below Karen Mason Shines As Bright As Ever Lest any reader think, at this point, that a Karen Mason club act is a musical soap opera of sobbing, let it be said that there are jovial moments of levity in both the spoken and sung portions of the evening, plenty of the belting action for which the Broadway actress is so well known, and several chances to hear the gutsy, glorious Karen Mason guffaw. One can plan on new arrangements of Carole King, Simon & Garfunkel, or an electrifying mash-up of Broadway-themed songs from Leiber & Stoller and Mr. Sondheim, and always with the inimitable Mason vocals that require no microphone, but that are just a little more fun with. The Birthday Bash, or the Let The Music Play release show or the Vaccinatin' Rhythm concert (whatever the show is called) is an exceptional night of cabaret, an immeasurable example of the power of an intimate evening in a nightclub, and a reminder of why Karen Mason so often has words like "iconic" and "legendary" applied to her name. As a working actress and woman with two feet on the ground, one suspects Karen Mason has no interest in being an icon or a legend, only a working actress and an artist. But people can't help but call you a legend when you can do with your art what Karen Mason does with hers. Icon, legend, or working actress, Karen Mason is a talent that must be seen, in whatever show she is in. So, whatever a person's geographic location, an opportunity to catch her in the act really shouldn't be missed - take it on faith.

Find great shows to see at the Feinstein's/54 Below website HERE.

Visit the Karen Mason website HERE.

Karen Mason gets a five out of five microphones rating for performing her entire show without the use of a lyric sheet, tablet, or music stand.

BWW Review: With an Encore of Her BIRTHDAY BASH! at Feinstein's/54 Below Karen Mason Shines As Bright As Ever

BWW Review: With an Encore of Her BIRTHDAY BASH! at Feinstein's/54 Below Karen Mason Shines As Bright As Ever BWW Review: With an Encore of Her BIRTHDAY BASH! at Feinstein's/54 Below Karen Mason Shines As Bright As Ever BWW Review: With an Encore of Her BIRTHDAY BASH! at Feinstein's/54 Below Karen Mason Shines As Bright As Ever BWW Review: With an Encore of Her BIRTHDAY BASH! at Feinstein's/54 Below Karen Mason Shines As Bright As Ever BWW Review: With an Encore of Her BIRTHDAY BASH! at Feinstein's/54 Below Karen Mason Shines As Bright As Ever BWW Review: With an Encore of Her BIRTHDAY BASH! at Feinstein's/54 Below Karen Mason Shines As Bright As Ever

BWW Review: With an Encore of Her BIRTHDAY BASH! at Feinstein's/54 Below Karen Mason Shines As Bright As Ever

BWW Review: With an Encore of Her BIRTHDAY BASH! at Feinstein's/54 Below Karen Mason Shines As Bright As Ever BWW Review: With an Encore of Her BIRTHDAY BASH! at Feinstein's/54 Below Karen Mason Shines As Bright As Ever BWW Review: With an Encore of Her BIRTHDAY BASH! at Feinstein's/54 Below Karen Mason Shines As Bright As Ever BWW Review: With an Encore of Her BIRTHDAY BASH! at Feinstein's/54 Below Karen Mason Shines As Bright As Ever

BWW Review: With an Encore of Her BIRTHDAY BASH! at Feinstein's/54 Below Karen Mason Shines As Bright As Ever

Photos by Stephen Mosher


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From This Author - Stephen Mosher