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Karen Mason, Christopher Denny close out Bay Area Cabaret Season 10 at Venetian

Karen Mason and Christopher Denny, 'Secrets of the Ancient Divas'


Bay Area Cabaret with Karen Mason and Christopher Denny just finished another fabulous season of Broadway tunes sung intimately in San Francisco with a sense of friends and family between those on stage and in the audience, including lots of hugs and kisses, photo ops and CD signings.

Karen Mason and Mr. Montalban take a photo op back in the Venetian room after the show.
Karen Mason and Mr. Montalban take a photo op back in the Venetian room after the show.
Cindy Warner
Karen Mason and Christopher Denny exchange hugs and kisses with fans after closing the tenth season of Bay Area Cabaret at the Venetian Room of the Fairmont Hotel.  (Eleanor of Concord just turned 93)
Cindy Warner

Karen Mason: ‘It’s about Time’

Karen Mason, via St. Louis and Chicago and born in New Orleans, brought warmth and self-effacing humor to the Venetian Room of the Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill on Sunday evening. Her ever so tall (6’6”?) and handsome pianist and musical director Christopher Denny joined her and even had his own moment in the spotlight, to her surprise. He’s in the slideshow.

Mason shared her ‘Secrets of the Ancient Divas’ and began her cabaret by announcing she got ‘new hair and new shoes’ as well as sparkly new reading glasses with which to peruse her research notes.

Marilyn Levinson the Bay Area Cabaret producer announced Mason as an old friend whom Marilyn used to go to see in a shoe box called the Duplex in New York. ‘I felt that I had made a friend when I watched her show’ said Marilyn. ‘I was lonely back then’. Marilyn then teased she would not be disclosing season eleven’s roster yet.

Mason did look stunning, a tall blond with new perky hair, lots of sparkly diamond jewelry and a body hugging black dress with cut-outs front and back; and a side slit up to there that showed off her curves as well as her rhinestoned platform stilettos. Check out the slideshow. It must be fun to be her especially as she’s a diva who celebrates her inner gay man.

Mason did save the best for last, closing her show with two encores, ending with a song her husband Paul Rolnick wrote with Shelly Markam for her to perform right after New York allowed equality in marriage recently. It was a tear jerker all of a sudden in the very last phrase of the very last song, “It’s about Time”. They got a Mac Award for Best Song and Mason has won ten Mac awards herself, the last six years straight. She followed it with ‘Memories’ which Mr. Bergman the writer himself performed on that very stage. That surreal experience took place at Bay Area Cabaret’s tribute to Marvin Hamlisch although Bergman sang with his wife and writing partner Mrs. Bergman sitting right in front of him.

So the CD signing after the show was so much more, with many gay couples paying their respects and one couple in particular noting they had been together for forty years.

A young Mr. Montalban, another performer, also went back into the empty Venetian room to take a couple of private photos with Karen Mason during the CD signing. Those are in the slideshow as well.

The publicist for the San Francisco Opera also attended.

Mason opened with ‘Zing Went the Strings of My Heart’; ‘When You’re Smiling’ which Judy Garland sang to open her show at Carnegie Hall; a heartfelt ‘He Touched Me’ with the lights down low; ‘Can’t Give You Anyting but Love’; a clever ‘When in Rome’; a rendition of ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend’ that did it justice and would make proud Channing, Monroe, Madonna and Kidman.

A highlight would be a Kander number she actually sang for him personally, from ‘The Rink’, a quirky funny tune about Santa Cruz, no Monterey and ocean spray, sailing Long Beach with Joe, no Pete . . . : ‘Colored Lights’ that had a bit of a macabre nutty feel like ‘Carousel’ without the frenzy but with ditzy confusion.

She did a spot on ‘Goldfinger’ whose heart is cold and he loves only gold. She followed that with ‘The Man That Got Away’ and then a beloved ‘Over the Rainbow’.

She talked about being in Chicago with Brian Lasser and how he wanted to Lasserize a Garland song, then sang ‘Chicago is My Kind of Town’.

However, she did open and wind up the set with remarks on the Bay to Breakers. ‘What’s Beta Breakers?’ she asked. ‘Were there naked people?’ as if she had to ask.

Tickets cost $48 and the Beach Blanket Babylon mannequin with the San Francisco skyline hat still stands in the lobby.

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