Luba Mason: Love's Collage
On November 23 - 26, Luba Mason (Chicago, H2$) returns to New York City to celebrate the release of her premiere album "Collage" at the Metropolitan Room. Mason provides a soulful spin to pop ballads by classic song-writers like Neil Diamond, Van Morrison and Lou Reed.
The "Collage" collection is a labor of love for Luba, a native New Yorker, who spent her early youth devoted to training in classical voice, piano and dance.
BroadwayWorld.com's News Desk Editor, Eugene Lovendusky, grabbed a quick opportunity to discuss Luba's coming-concert engagement and the inspiration behind "Collage"
Eugene Lovendusky: Congratulations on your debut CD, "Collage" and your upcoming Metropolitan Room concert engagement! What treats do you have in store for the concert audiences?
Luba Mason: Thank you. Treats... well, not only will I be featuring songs from "Collage" but I'll be performing songs from Broadway shows I've starred in: Jekyll & Hyde, H2$, Chicago as well as favorites written by Michael John LaChiusa, Randy Newman and Lou Reed. There will be something for everyone - pop, jazz, classics and Broadway tunes. And the "treat" is also in the arrangements of some of the songs that makes them fresh, new and interesting. I may even have a "special guest" come and perform!?
Eugene: "Collage" (PS Classics) is available now and features your turn at classics by George Harrison, Neil Diamond, Elvis Costello... What about these artists has inspired you in your singing career?
Luba: The pop influences of George Harrison, Neil Diamond, Johhny Nash and others, made a large imprint on my style of singing when I was younger. I grew up in a very strict, old fashioned Eastern European home where only classical music was allowed. I played classical piano for 12 years, sang in two church choirs, my older sister was studying to be an opera singer at Manhattan School of Music and I was screaming inside to do something different. I bought a clock radio with my babysitting money and discovered the "top ten" pop charts every week and memorized them. I couldn't get enough of this music. I knew someday I wanted to record this type of music. Careful for what you wish for...
Eugene: Tell me a little about the making of "Collage" how did you choose your material? Given the eclectic music types - a collage of sound - was there a general feel or drive for shaping your debut album?
Luba: A general feel for the album is a good way to describe my process. There was no set plan. The album took 2 years to make so I had time to choose the material. I choose material that spoke to me emotionally. I choose material that reflected my life - pop songs, a Broadway song, a folk song in my native tongue, Slovak, songs that reminded me of special people in my life and songs with writers that influenced me greatly.
Eugene: You've already brought "Collage" to venues in LA, San Francisco and Chicago. Do you have other plans for "Collage" after The Metropolitan Room?
Luba: A result of touring in these venues, other performances have stemmed from it. There are bookings for "Collage" scheduled in January and February of next year in California and Chicago has asked me back in two different venues. This is exactly what I want to happen. There's no better way to get your music heard than to bring it right to them. Also, I recorded my second album on November 9, a Brazilian acoustic jazz album. When I begin performing that album, I'll be incorporating some of the songs from "Collage" in my set. "Collage" will ALWAYS be in my repertoire.
Eugene: You'll be joined on-stage with the Ed Alstrom Trio how did you line yourself up with them?
Luba: My tour manager, Kristopher McDowell, suggested Ed Alstrom and his trio. Kristopher had worked with him before and said that Ed had a great energy on-stage, a strong presence. And he felt that combined with my strong energy, we would just make the Metropolitan Room rock! Also, Ed is an easy and amiable person to work with which is just as important as being talented.
Eugene: You last graced the Broadway stage in Chicago and boast several other Broadway credit... Are there sights for you to appear on the New York stage again?
Luba: There are ALWAYS sights for me to appear on a New York stage again. It's a little complicated when one lives in Los Angeles to commit to a show for 6 months, 1 year or more in New York. But, my husband and I are planning to move back to New York next year so... a Broadway show may be coming up for me sooner than later.
Eugene: Tell me a little about your classical training background? How did you discover your voice?
Luba: As I mentioned earlier, I played classical piano for 12 years starting when I was 5. Within a few years, I played songs I wanted to sing. I secretly loved to belt out singing songs - anything! My piano teacher, who was also a church choir director, got wind of my singing after my mother told him that I was singing more than practicing the piano. He started giving me singing lessons the last 10 minutes of my piano lesson. This lead to the church choirs and then seriously studying with my sister's voice teachers in NYC. I grew up right outside of NYC so I was lucky that I had access to some of the best voice teachers from Juliard and Manhattan School of Music. Knowing I didn't want to sing opera, I found a voice coach who trained me to mix my belt voice with the legit voice. And it was he who bridged me into the world of musical theatre. I was hooked on musical theatre from that point on.
Eugene: And for one final - and random - question... What's the story behind your name "Luba" and, your pseudonym "Kim Freshwater"?
Luba: You ready? Here goes... I'm first generation American, born of Slovak parents. My parents named me Lubica Anna Gregusova, translated: Luba Gregus. (Luba means "love" by the way) I started in the business as Luba Gregus. I didn't appreciate my ethnicity when I got out of college so I decided I wanted to change my name. During this time, I was dancing with The American Dance Machine, a living archive performing original choreography of past Broadway shows. Lee Theodore, the founding director of the company (and the original "Anybodys" in West Side Story for those theatre buffs), decided she'd give me a new name. She called me Kim Freshwater. My first Broadway show, Late Nite Comic, I'm Kim Freshwater. But it didn't stop there... I changed my name again when Martin Charnin cast me in my second Broadway show, Sid Caesar & Co. and he said to change my name back to my original formal name but with the phonetic spelling, Lubitza Gregus (accent on the first syllable). So I'm billed as Lubitza Gregus in Sid Caesar & Co. Hold on, I'm not done yet... When cast in The Will Rogers Follies as Lubitza Gregus, Tommy Tune gave my name Lubitza a real southern twang, "Lubeeeetza" (accent on the second syllable). I never heard that before. It was then that I decided to go back to Luba Gregus. Billed Luba Gregus in The Will Rogers Follies. Ah, but then I had to go and get married to Ken Mason. I was Luba Mason in Sunset Blvd. in the first Los Angeles production. Even though I married a second time, I'm not budging from Luba Mason. She's here to stay.
Luba Mason presents "The Collage Tour" with The Ed Alstrom Trio at The Metropolitan Room November 23 - 26 at 10PM. The Metropolitan Room is located at 34 West 22nd St. Reservations recommended (212) 206-0440 or visit www.metropolitanroom.com
(bottom photo) Luba Mason, 2004 by Linda Lenzi