Karen Mason tops cabaret concert on Sunday 

Karen Mason admits she has been "spoiled." In a career she compares to a "play day," the award-winning singer/actress has moved seamlessly from stage and film to recordings and back again for more than three decades. She has released five CDs, worked in television and film, and appeared in some of Broadway’s most popular productions.

"I get to play all these truly amazing characters, as many as I can," says Mason, who embodied "Sunset Boulevard’s" Norma Desmond and originated the role of Tanya in "Mamma Mia" on Broadway, "And I still get to do cabaret and concerts where I can be anything I want on that stage. I can show off every facet of my personality and who I am."

The singer returns to San Francisco on Sunday, showcasing her romantic side, headlining a concert at the Marines Memorial Club that’s part of the Bay Area Cabaret series. Local favorite Connie Champagne, who will share her favorite love songs and premiere material from her upcoming European concert dates, opens.

Preferring shows which "include a little bit of everything," Mason’s cabaret sets are likely to shift from Irving Berlin to Billy Joel, mixing Broadway favorites and selections from her own recordings.

It has proven a winning combination — she has been honored with the Manhattan Association of Cabaret & Clubs major female vocalist of the year award nine times, including the last six years in a row. A 2006 Nightlife Award winner for major female vocalist and three-time Bistro Award-recipient in her adopted hometown, the New Yorker says the Bay Area is equally receptive.

"It’s a smart, clicked-in but not pretentious audience," Mason says of San Francisco. "I like people who appreciate different styles of music, who come and want to have great stories told to them and have a good time without being afraid to participate."

Sharing the stage with everyone from Liza Minnelli to Luciano Pavarotti, Mason has headlined New York’s Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center and venues in Sweden, Osaka and Brazil. Later this month, she plays Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu.

While performing in larger theaters allows for risk-taking — "It’s much more presentational," Mason explains — the singer enjoys the intimacy offered by venues like the Marines Memorial Club: "When you’re staring at the audience, and they’re looking right at you, it’s much more personal. When you actually see their faces, it’s more of an immediate connection."

Of course, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t connect to the experience of being with larger audiences, as in Carnegie Hall. She says, "When you’re onstage, you always feel the audience. But this becomes much more of a conversation."

Karen Mason with Connie Champagne

Presented by Bay Area Cabaret

Where: Crystal Ballroom, Marines Memorial Club, 609 Sutter St., San Francisco

When: 5 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $45

Contact: (415) 392-4400 or www.bayareacabaret.org

Looking for more things to do this weekend? Check out the Food and Entertainment section.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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