Karen Mason: Christmas! Christmas! Christmas!

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Karen Mason

Christmas! Christmas! Christmas!

Don’t Tell Mama, NYC, December 14, 2015

 Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors for Cabaret Scenes

Photo: Maryann Lopinto
Photo: Maryann Lopinto

For any holly jolly Christmas, your show list should include Karen Mason’s Christmas!, Christmas!, Christmas! Currently at Don’t Tell Mama, Mason, an actress and singer with killer vocal chops, is a powerhouse of vibrancy, sentiment and humor. Now isn’t that what you want during the holiday season? Some laughter from a slightly threatening, a bit sexy “Santa Claus Is Comin’…(pause, pause)…to Town)” (J. Fred Coots/Haven Gillespie). Some tears with “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (Hugh Martin), to say nothing of Walter Kent and Kim Gannon’s “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.
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Mason’s theater experience (Sunset Boulevard, Mamma Mia!, Hairspray) has always been evident in her selections. With intensity, she finds all the nuances of emotion and nostalgia in this seasonal music. Backed by Musical Director/pianist Christopher Denny, the two dramatically present a sophisticated segment with Denny singing “Joy to the World” (George Handel/Isaac Watts/Lowell Mason) and Mason’s interpretation of the emotional turmoil in Joni Mitchell’s “River.”

Holiday-casual in a black sweater and a shimmery gold printed skirt, Mason gathers an audience into her aura, as she does, whether in a concert hall or a small club. She involves herself in the song, musically and lyrically.

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Her selections are chosen with intelligence and an eye on the world today. “What the World Needs Now Is Love” (Hal David and Burt Bacharach) and who would disagree with that? Or with the following ideas from Jerry Herman’s Mame, “We Need a Little Christmas” and “It’s Today.”

Turning to the down side of the holidays, she pointed out the truth in Bacharach and David’s “A House Is Not a Home” but any tears turn to laughter when she suggests what to avoid giving her for the holidays. Brian Lasser wrote it all out in “Not This Christmas, and Barry Kleinbort annually updates it with references to possible new gifts, such as one big no-no being “No low-cut lingerie in 50 shades of gray.

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Mason’s singular attribute of stage presence doused with down-to-earth honesty is too good to miss.
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For me, it’s all I need for Christmas. (Almost all.)

Elizabeth Ahlfors

Born and raised in New York, Elizabeth graduated from NYU with a degree in Journalism. She has lived in various cities and countries and now is back in NYC. She has written magazine articles and published three books: A Housewife’s Guide to Women’s Liberation, Twelve American Women, and Heroines of ’76 (for children). A great love was always music and theater—in the audience, not performing. A Philadelphia correspondent for Theatre.com and InTheatre Magazine, she has reviewed theater and cabaret for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia City News. She writes for Cabaret Scenes and other cabaret/theater sites. She is a judge for Nightlife Awards and a voting member of Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle.