Cabaret Review Joe Regan Jr.


In a stunning black gown with sparkling blue high heels (her “diva” shoes) Karen Mason made a stunning entrance for her special show, “Secrets of the Ancient Divas.” Despite the heavy rain outside and the closing of many streets because of the free World AIDS Day concert in Times Square, there was a full house on December 1st at the Iridium Jazz Club.  James Followell (who had forgotten his black coat) in white dress shirt contrasting visually with Mason’s black outfit, played wonderful accompaniment and arrangements throughout the evening.

The inspiration of the show came some time ago when Mason was chosen to sing Judy Garland songs in Long Beach, California. She started researching Garland and the “divas” that inspired her. Her opening number was a swinging “Zing Went The Strings of My Heart,” then a wild “Just In Time” and a recreation of Garland’s opening number at Carnegie Hall, “When You’re Smiling,” with all those special lyrics.

The humorous bits were the historical narration about the history of “divas,” finding them in Italian, Spanish, Aztec, Mayan, and hieroglyphics, especially in Sanskrit. Among the pleasant songs were terrific versions of “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” “When in Rome,” and an audience rouser of “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend.”

One of the patters was Mason’s telling of being chosen to sing at John Kander’s birthday party. In front of Kander, Chita Rivera, Liza Minnelli, Stockard Channing, Stephen Sondheim and Stephen Schwartz, she sang “Colored Lights” form “The Rink.” With a rocking Jacques Brel like accompaniment, Mason’s version of “Colored Lights” was a one act play in itself.

There was a funny Mayan introduction before she did “Goldfinger,” belting strongly to the rafters but hilarious as hell.

There were three great songs towards the end. First, “A House Is Not A Home,” sang slowly and tenderly with all its lyric imagery intact. Then, with Followell playing variations on the famous introductory chords, Mason gave a slow, dramatic performance of “The Man That Got Away,” belting out the last chorus and muting the ending. A masterwork of reinvention. This was followed by a very sweet “Over the Rainbow,” complete with verse, and sung with tenderness to a grand finish.

She reminisced about her late musical partner Brian Lasser and when they were playing the Chicago bars he drew a city map of the two paths to each of their residences. The song they did in those bars, “Chicago” from “Robin and the 7 Hoods” was belted out in full force, no pausing, and hitting all the high notes. The crowd went wild.

She started to discuss her career as a wedding singer, specifically for two male friends who were getting married after a long relationship. She asked her husband to write a special song and he wrote the MAC Award winning “It’s About Time.” When she queried the audience, she found a male couple who had just been married two weeks ago after 28 years together. The crowd cheered and she sang that beautiful song to a standing ovation.

Watch for Karen Mason to repeat this show. She never disappoints and she is singing and looking sensational.

Photos: Maryann Lopinto