Karen Mason: Kander & Ebb & All That Jazz

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Karen Mason

Kander & Ebb & All That Jazz

Birdland, NYC, March 28, 2022

Reviewed by Candace Leeds

Karen Mason
Photo: Gene Reed

Karen Mason wowed a full house of adoring fans at her Birdland show featuring the music of the prolific songwriting team of Kander & Ebb. Totally inhabiting each song, she showcased her rich lower register and powerful, brassy belt. Her first number, “All That Jazz,” from the musical Chicago, immediately enraptured the audience, as she began in an intense, whispery voice and built to a grand, bold finale. 

Looking stunningly svelte in an elegant white pants suit, she quickly explained to the audience that she’s been “a nervous wreck all day” because so many people she knows told her they were coming to see her. Later in the show, she told us exactly why she was so nervous. She explained that lyricists Fred Ebb passed away in 2004, but his writing partner, composer John Kander, at age 95, was still going to nightclubs. To the surprise of everyone, she then pointed to the loge and introduced Kander, who took a bow to thunderous applause. 

Karen Mason with Fred Ebb
Photo: Michael Lee Stever

Mason provided engaging background comments for each of her songs. She explained that Kander & Ebb originally wrote “Maybe This Time” for Kaye Ballard, but it did not become a pop standard until Liza Minnelli sang it in the movie Cabaret. Ballard also missed out on another Kander & Ebb hit song, “My Coloring Book.” Although the pair wrote it for her, it was first given to singer Sandy Stewart. To introduce the song “Colored Lights” from the musical The Rink, Mason told a funny anecdote about being in the revue of Kander & Ebb songs called And the World Goes ‘Round, explaining that she had to learn to roller skate. When she appeared in a kick line, she quickly fell on her back, prompting Scott Ellis, who directed the show, to tell her to do it again for the laughs. She then explained that another of her castmates, Karen Ziemba, who was also in the audience, was not like her—she was an extraordinary skater.

Karen Mason
Photo: Michael Lee Stever

Other highpoints of the show included her rich, heartfelt delivery of “My Coloring Book,” and a joyful version of “Cabaret.” The audience cheered and whistled following her powerful rendition of “But the World Goes Round” from the film New York, New York.

It is no surprise that Mason has been recognized as one of the top female performers currently active.  She is a 13-time MAC Award recipient, including a 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award.

The show was directed by Barry Kleinbort. Christopher Denny was music director/pianist and Ritt Henn was on bass.

Candace Leeds

Candace Leeds has been steeped in the world of music since the age of twelve, when she enrolled in Juilliard to study voice and prepare for a professional career. After 15 years of music studies, she moved into entertainment management at New York's Town Hall, where she produced concerts and served as Associate Director. Her writing and marketing skills led to senior positions in major public relations firms, including the PR arm of Grey Advertising and The Rowland Company, which became part of Saatchi and Saatchi. For the past two decades, she served as Vice President of Public Affairs at the multi-billion dollar conglomerate, Loews Corporation, and now has her own marketing consulting company. While pursuing her business career, she continued her music involvement, studying cabaret and occasionally performing in local New York venues. Candace is an accomplished writer whose work has appeared in the New York Daily News, TV World, and many others.