Karen Mason has starred on Broadway, Off-Broadway, television and “…has few peers when it comes to ripping the roof off with her amazing voice that knows no bounds!” according to TheatreScene.net.
The recording star and twelve-time MAC Award winner (including Female Vocalist of the Year for six consecutive years) comes to Lynn University’s Amarnick-Goldstein Concert Hall on May 18 as the final show of this season’s “Mabel Mercer Foundation's Cabaret at Lincoln Center Comes to Live at Lynn” series.
Mason is not just a cabaret star, she’s Broadway’s go-to gal when a show needs a show-stopping performer with great pipes. She most recently garnered rave reviews starring as the Queen of Hearts in “Wonderland,” and originated the role of Tanya on Broadway in “Mamma Mia!” (for which she was awarded a 2002 Drama Desk nomination as Best Actress). Her other leading roles include Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard” in the Broadway and in Los Angeles productions, Velma von Tussel in “Hairspray” on Broadway and as Mazeppa in the original production of “Jerome Robbins’ Broadway.”
She has also had featured roles in the Broadway productions of “Torch Song Trilogy” and “Play Me A Country Song” and won the Outer Critics Circle Award for her performance in “And The World Goes ‘Round.”
Mason is a true gypsy, having toured and appeared in starring roles in shows such as; “A Christmas Story,” “White Christmas,” “Side By Side By Sondheim,” “Company” (at the Coconut Grove Playhouse) and, of course, “Gypsy.” As a concert artist, Karen has headlined Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Feinstein’s at The Regency, Rainbow & Stars, the Algonquin, and The Ballroom.
Her most influential job was when she was hired as a singing hostess at a Chicago restaurant in 1976. (“I was too clumsy to be a waitress”, she joked). That is where she met musician, composer and music arranger Brian Lasser, who would become her mentor, business partner and best friend for 16 years. They formed a fast partnership and performed in Chicago’s cabaret scene for 3 years, becoming favorites of the gay community and eventually conquering the entire city.
No matter how big a fish you are, Chicago is a small pond, and in 1979 Mason and Lasser packed up and moved to New York City, hoping to conquer Broadway and New York’s cabaret world. They managed to do so rather quickly, landing gigs at The Duplex (1979), The Algonquin (1981), and opening Don’t Tell Mama (1983) with Karen being cast in her first New York Broadway show, “Play Me A Country Song” in 1982.
It seemed nothing could stop the dynamic duo, and then Karen woke up on the morning of September 4, 1984, sounding like Minnie Mouse. She’d contracted a virus that affected her vocal cords. She didn’t know if she’d ever sing again. Six months later, after much medical treatment, her voice returned in 1985. She and Brian resumed performing and working on a musical featuring Brian’s original music. It wasn’t long, however, before another virus, HIV, altered Karen’s life forever. Brian Lasser died of complications of AIDS in 1992. Mason was devastated, “I really thought I would never make music again.”
Mason has been a longtime ally of the LGBT community, Lasser’s death only cemented her commitment to her friends and fans. She has appeared at a number of benefits and fundraisers to help fight AIDS and support the LGBT community. Her highly acclaimed recordings include her newest single, “It’s About Time,” written by her husband Paul Rolnick and Shelly Markham, which has become a same-sex wedding staple.
She has also recorded a number of albums “Right Here/ Right Now” (2009 Mac Award-winner) and “When the Sun Comes Out,” “The Sweetest of Nights,” “Christmas! Christmas! Christmas!,” “Not So Simply Broadway” and “Better Days,” recorded live at the West Bank Cafe featuring songs by Lasser (including the 1998 Emmy Award-winning song Hold Me).
Karen has also been featured on the soundtrack of the original cast CDs of “Wonderland,” “And The World Goes Round” and “Jeffrey” as well as the studio cast recordings of “Wonderful Town” and “Lost in Boston II.”
Tickets for the concert at Lynn University on Wednesday, May 18 are $40 and can be purchased at Lynn.tix.com.