Karen Mason & Louis Rosen: Two Friends/Love of Song

| December 31, 2016

Karen Mason & Louis Rosen

Two Friends/Love of Song

The Duplex, NYC, December 28, 2016

Reviewed by Alix Cohen for Cabaret Scenes



Louis Rosen & Karen Mason

“I sing for you/I sing for me/I sing for love/Love of song….” Luxuriating in the vocal expression of warm, elongated notes, actress/vocalist Karen Mason and musician/songwriter Louis Rosen open by palpably sharing delight in their craft. (Louis Rosen’s “Love of Song.”)

Forty years ago friend/fellow writer Brian Lasser encouraged Rosen to come hear a singer for whom Lasser was musical director. That singer was Karen Mason. Though Mason and Rosen have kept warm relations (Lasser passed in 1992), they’ve never before done an entire show together. This outing offers original material by Rosen and Lasser. While the former’s muse rests in a soft rock/folk tradition of very personal lyrics, songs by the latter seem geared toward revue and musical theater performance.

Accompanying tonight’s show on piano and guitar, Rosen would be the first to admit he’s not a singer. He is, however, intimate with the work’s inception and, like many songwriters, conveys elements others might find elusive. Mason furnishes both polished sound and the interpretation of a veteran theater professional. Signature belting and high dudgeon are almost completely absent during an evening when the artist draws from a deep emotional well with apt reserve.

Some of Rosen’s best are: “The South Side,” a Randy Newman-ish tale about the South Side of Chicago (his childhood home): “…It was bungalows all in a row/Where a family dream could grow/And only Democrats knew where the bodies were buried…”; the wry and eloquent “I Need You” (rendered as a duet): “…like a seed needs the rain/like pleasure needs pain…like yang needs some yin/like confession needs sin…” during which the performers affectionately “tickle” one another with examples; and “Half the Bed,” sung by an abandoned woman to a melody that circles back on itself like a helix—or perhaps unrelenting memories. (Mason enables us to see the empty sheets.)

A tandem “Chicago” and Rosen’s “Dust to Dust Blues” work wonderfully together, not the least because of Rosen’s truly original arrangement of the iconic Fred Fisher song. Mason paints the city sound shadowed, but homey. (This should be turned into a full length number, perhaps for one of her own shows.) Rosen soulfully mines his past. “… I seek out the holiness here in the wilderness…” which echoes like a classic, hop-a-freight folk refrain.

Lasser’s songs include such as “How Long Has It Been?”—”Look, we’re all grown up…Not what we had planned…”—a convincing conversation as presented by Mason, simple, halting, true; “Tear Up the Town,” a tap tempo production-number-in-waiting with the vocalist in Broadway mode; and “Becoming My Mother,” sweet sentiment performed reflectively, inspired by Mason’s turning 30.

The evening concludes with Rosen’s “Lullaby for Teddy” (his now college-aged son): “…sleep won’t harm or scare or charm….” While it might have arrived more dulcet in Mason’s capable hands, feeling weighs equally here. The author’s last whispered, slightly choked “Goodnight, Teddy” lands like a well-watched feather.

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Category: Cabaret Reviews, New York City, New York City Cabaret Reviews, Regional

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