(Noder's note: This is the first draft of my Karen Mason review for the newspaper in Brooklyn College. I'll get a copy of the final draft, and I'll add those changes in this node.)
I want to introduce one little something I should see more often: The cabaret. It's a kind of show where you have a singer and musicians, comedians telling jokes, or something as 'out there' as a magic act. However, the emphasis of a cabaret is the intimacy between the performers and the audience. The usual size of an audience in a cabaret is just like an average classroom in Boylan Hall (the liberal arts building in Brooklyn College). It's the comfortable setting for a performer being able to bare their soul to the audience.
The case in point: Karen Mason in Arci's Place.
When I first heard Ms. Mason's voice from the cast recording of And the World Goes 'Round, she has a voice that is driven by yearning. It's the yearning defined by pure desire for love and life that drives us. One of her albums, Better Days, is built on this wanting to live. In Arci's Place, Karen still have this yearning in her voice. Karen has for the evening a lot of songs that thrives on that yearning, and showed the joy that came from wanting life.
In Arci's Place, she introduced a lot of Broadway standards to the audience -- a great variety of songs from the Gershwins, Jerome Kern, and Stephen Sondheim. Her definition of a "standard" is any song that withstood the test of time and can still elicit the visceral emotions in people. To everybody in Arci's place during the evening, she's very right.
Ms. Mason has a great idea for starting out a show -- she sang a medley of Tonight, Tonight from the musical West Side Story and Johnny Mercer's Out of This World. If someone in a cabaret or a Broadway show can do good to the works of Sondheim in the beginning of the show, I am already impressed. Kern's Pick Yourself Up is a peppy and fun number, a subtle paean for confidence and soul before the descent into the emotional roller coaster starting with Up on the Roof.
Now we descend with Karen into wanting life. After talking about the passing of a dear friend, she sang her personal standard: We Never Ran Out of Love. Even more personal is how she moved form Love to one of my favorite songs: Being Alive from Stephen Sondheim's musical Company as a part of a medley with Help! from The Beatles. It's not the songwriters or the "distance" from Sondheim to Lennon that matters now, it's the theme of wanting to connect with humanity (be it yours or that with someone right nearby).
To see Karen Mason becomes a very intimate night. To listen to Karen becomes a memorable experience that will make you alive. Karen uses the cabaret stage to convey her emotions, and wants you to want something, anything in your life, together with her.
Karen Mason's performance schedule:
9 PM Wednesdays to Thursdays
8:30 PM and 11:00 PM Fridays to Saturdays
8 PM Sundays
Karen started her performances in September 6th, and will run until October 15th.
Details about the venue:
Arci's Place is located in 450 Park Avenue South, between 30th and 31st street. The cover charge for the show is $30 and a minimum $15 charge for dinner and drinks. Reservations are available through (212)-532-4370 .
Important web site links:
www.arcisplace.com - Arci's Place
www.karenmason.com - Karen Mason's web site
www.playbill.com - Playbill Online, the web site for the Playbill theatre magazine