The Orinda Theatre’s popular Live At the Orinda! concert series introduces its own brand of March Madness with two award-winning Broadway performers. David Burnham of Wicked and Light in the Piazza fame headlines March 5. Karen Mason, whose prolific career includes such hits as Mamma Mia!, Hairspray and Sunset Boulevard, performs March 26.
Burnham’s Mostly Broadway show is composed of songs from many of the hits he’s appeared in, tunes from the Great American Songbook and lots of stories, including how he won his first professional role.
“I was still in college and went to New York and decided to crash a Broadway audition,” said the Los Angeles native. “I showed up with my long surfer hair, wearing a tank top and flip flops. I really didn’t know what I was doing.” The audition he crashed was Ragtime.
Although Burnham wasn’t right for any roles in that show, he was allowed to sing and he choose a song from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. His selection, not to mention his powerful tenor, proved fortuitous.
The producers of Ragtime were also involved in the Canadian production of Joseph, starring Donny Osmond. After five years in the role, Osmond was leaving the show and auditions for his replacement were underway. Before he knew it, Burnham was at the callbacks for the role in New York and then on a flight to Toronto to sing for the director – still in his flip flops and tank top.
“Little did I know that while I was auditioning at Toronto’s beautiful Elgin Theatre that the composer, Andrew Lloyd Weber, was on the telephone listening to my audition,” Burnham said. “After I sang, the director offered me the part and said I had a costume fitting right away and a photo shoot in a half hour. Then I was on a plane back to L.A. That night as I went to bed, I started wondering if it had all really happened.”
I’ve been blessed in my career to be able to create new roles. It’s like putting together a puzzle,” he said.
Karen Mason can’t wait to bring her show Kander and Ebb and All That Jazz to Orinda March 26.
“The Orinda Theatre is such a sweet space and the audiences are smart and willing to go on any ride you want to take them on,” said Mason. “It’s the music I grew up with and always wanted to sing. I knew I was never going to play an ingénue and Kander and Ebb’s music is made for a belter like me.”
Mason will share stories from her impressive career, which includes shows such as Sunset Boulevard (Norma Desmond), Hairspray (Velma von Tussel), Wonderland (The Queen of Hearts) and originating the role of Tanya in Abba’s Mamma Mia!
She remembers the short rehearsal period she had to take over the role of Mezeppa (one of the strippers from Gypsy) in Jerome Robbins’ Forbidden Broadway.
“I only had two weeks to learn the part and how to play the trumpet,” recalled Mason. “Every night I’d go home after rehearsal and put the trumpet bell on the side of the couch and try and get any sound out I could. My neighbors can attest to my poor trumpet playing!”
The Live At the Orinda! concert series often sells out, so purchase tickets early by going to www.orindamovies.com.
Sally Hogarty can be reached at email@example.com.