by Susan Hasho
Luba Mason told a very human story at The Green Room 42 Wednesday night (July 10). She opened the show with the song “On Broadway” (Lieber/Stoller) and described her painful beginnings as a performer with the American Dance Machine. She talked about her early experience as a young actress of Czechoslovakian background struggling to deal with her height (5’10”), overweight and unusual Slovakian name. She thought changing her name to Kim Freshwater, (Luba uses a flip pad to illustrate each change of name) would help her career along.
She performed two of her audition songs “I Love a Piano” (Irving Berlin) and “Raunchy” (Schmidt/Jones). Struggling to find who she was and very determined to have a career as a performer, she auditioned for the chorus in her favorite show Dreamgirls because she had seen that there was one white girl in the cast and loved the show so much, she was willing to stick her neck out. Luba and her musical director Billy Stritch teamed up for a gorgeous duet of “When I First Saw You” from Dreamgirls.
Her first breakout role was as Hedy LaRue in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. After her audition, the director Des McAnuff, told her agent he had cast the role but the actress was pregnant. Several months and several phone calls later, Luba ended up doing the role in California and continued right to Broadway. She sang her song “Love from a Heart of Gold” from the show—again with Stritch. Her voice has the ability to change timbre, octave and even characteristics depending on her character. It’s almost as if her voice changes costumes, it can be that total and that supple.
She fell in love and got married: “I Need to Be in Love” (Carpenter/Bettis/Hammond). Then sometime later Broadway again became a possibility. She was cast in Paul Simon’s show Capeman which ran for a month. At this point in the evening, Luba broached the subject of her husband’s abuse—physical and emotional. The subject came up quietly; the extent and duration of his violence unfolded slowly. She was married for 7 years. But she was the daughter of a violent woman; one could think that violence was what came with love. She shared so simply that she drew the audience in close, closer still with the song “Someone Like You” (Wildhorn/Bricusse) from the Broadway show, Jekyll and Hyde in which she starred. …The past is holding me; Keeping life at bay. I wander lost in yesterday; Wanting to fly; But scared to try. But if someone like you Found someone like me Then suddenly Nothing would ever be the same; My heart would take wing; And I’d feel so alive! If someone like you Found me!
She found a brilliant way to share a deeply painful personal experience with both truth and simplicity.
She had the good fortune of working with Michael Friedman in his show Pretty Filthy. Her character, porn star Georgina Congress sings “Beautiful” as an ode to being a porn star. Her performance of it on Wednesday had just the right twist of sweet sincerity and dark humor that Luba Mason can totally create.
Closing the evening with “All That Jazz, ” a song she sang on Broadway in Chicago, was followed by an encore from The Band’s Visit, “Haled’s Song About Love” (Yazbek), creating a beautiful hypnotic moment in time, filled with the sensual experience of attraction.
Billy Stritch (Musical Director/Accompanist) was very much a part of the evening creating a seamless background not only as a pianist, but vocalist as well. He can shine, support and thrill all at once.
No regrets if you were not at this show, as Luba Mason will be appearing at Feinstein’s/54 Below on December 3, 2019.
Photos/Video: Magda Katz
The Green Room 42, 570 10th Avenue 646-449-7792 www.thegreenroom42.com