Luba Mason Takes on Seven Questions About Girl From The North Country, Her Cabaret Career, & That Iconic '95 Revival of How To Succeed
Luba Mason is back on Broadway giving a sensational, heartbreaking performance as Mrs. Burke in the new musical Girl From The North Country. Created by Conor McPherson and featuring the music of Bob Dylan, Girl From The North Country offers a glimpse into the lives of people sharing a Minnesota boarding house during The Great Depression, and Mrs. Burke is a formerly wealthy woman caring for her autistic son. For her performance in the off-Broadway run at The Public Theater, Luba was nominated for a 2019 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical.
BroadwayBox recently caught up with the Drama Desk and Lortel Award nominee to discuss how she handles the heaviness of Mrs. Burke's story in Girl From The North Country, her cabaret career, and her time working with Tommy Tune, Des McAnuff, and Paul Simon.
1. What struck you most about Girl From The North Country? Why was this a project you were interested in pursuing and staying with?
There is a deep spiritual component to the show which leaves the audience (and the actors) with a sense of mysticism. This intuitive composition, written by Conor McPherson, combined with the poetic brilliance of Bob Dylan's lyrics and music make this collaboration such a special show. There's nothing like it out there...and I wanted to be a part of it.
2. How has your Lortel-nominated performance as Mrs. Burke evolved as you spend more time with her and revisit her for the Broadway run?
I've had to dig deeper. There haven't been many changes in my character since the downtown run, so to make Mrs. Burke fresh and new for myself, I've had to rediscover and dive deep into her past history.
3. This production has so many beautiful moments. Tell me about a small moment in the show you absolutely love—one perhaps we might even miss if we weren’t looking for it.
In the second act during the song "Hurricane", Mrs. Burke is in a drunk and morphine stupor and has the time of her life dancing upstage—releasing the stress of caring for her autistic son, her abusive husband and living "poor" in these depressing times.
4. You have a pretty heavy storyline in the show. What is your pre-show like? How do you prepare for the heaviness of Mrs. Burke’s life, and how do you leave her behind after?
I don't always leave her behind. The heaviness accumulates by the end of the week, and I really need that day off! Hot baths after a show and exercise or yoga throughout the week helps release some of the stress, as well as a good martini by week's end!
5. What do you love about a concert or cabaret space as opposed to performing in a musical? As an artist, what speaks to you about creating those shows?
The beauty of cabaret is the intimacy. You feel more exposed and I find that harder to perform in than a large Broadway house. But because the audience is right in your face in a cabaret space, it challenges me to give a more honest performance. You can't hide with people so close watching you. You want to share your most personal thoughts and stories. It's quite beautiful.
6. What’s your most cherished memory of opening that now iconic and beloved ‘95 revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying?
There are so many! I believe overall, that show was such a smooth, enjoyable process for me! From getting along with such a superb cast—Matthew Broderick, Megan Mullaly, Jonathan Freeman, Lillias White, to name a few, to the symbiotic relationship of working with Des McAnuff, the ever-flowering growth of my character Hedy LaRue, to the high of the success of the show!
How To Succeed was my coming out party to the Broadway community and that is what makes this show so memorable to me.
7. In the beginning of your career, you worked with Tommy Tune (on
The Will Rogers Follies), Des McAnuff (on How to Succeed), and Paul Simon (on The Capeman). What was the most important thing you learned during that time? How did those experiences shape the performer you are now?
Oh...so many lessons I've learned...and continue to learn!
First, absorb their wisdom! Tommy's choreography helped me rise to the occasion of being a great dancer. Des fine-tuned my comedic skills, and singing for Paul Simon—you better bring your A game.
Second, don't forget in moments of doubt, that they chose ME to be in their shows. They chose me because they saw something in me that was special. Don't forget that! In a business of so much rejection, these people said YES to me! We all need this reinforcement when doubt comes knocking…
Head over to Broadway’s Belasco Theatre to see Luba Mason as Mrs. Burke in the new musical Girl From The North Country.