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An Evening With Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin
An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin has reached Broadway after touring the United States, Toronto, Australia and New Zealand. For two hours at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, these legendary Tony Award winners deliver a musical storybook through the lyrics of some of theater’s greatest songs and, as one of those songs says, it is “Some Enchanted Evening.”
Songs rule the evening, with no dancing (except for one quirky exception), no chitchat, no personal revelations, no insider memories (except for one touching exception).
LuPone and Patinkin appear from the darkness onto the stark stage and face “Another Hundred People” ( Company ). From this moment on, it is pure enchantment, funny, romantic, intense and sexy.
There are also surprises. Many of the songs are by Stephen Sondheim but they include other theater song masters as well. It should not seem surprising but it is, to imagine lusty LuPone singing Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s, “A Cockeyed Optimist,” a tune written for that Arkansas hayseed, Nellie Forbush. However, never underestimate the power of LuPone and how compellingly she and Patinkin bring out the essence of the songs, showing the versatility of this music.
Conceived by Mandy Patinkin and music director Paul Ford, the show is directed by Patinkin as an uninterrupted series of vignettes. Rather than tell a story chronologically, the segments illustrate the emotions, playfulness, insecurities and sensuality of people who admire each other and are good friends. Along the way, they celebrate their careers.
LuPone’s voice is strong with long clean lines, clear diction with a lustrous tone. She is zesty and determined as she speeds through, “Not Getting Married Today” ( Company ). Patinkin is dynamic when the pitch is perfect, the lines clipped and the tempo is full-speed, as in “Everybody Says Don’t” from Anyone Can Whistle .
Sequences tie songs together with a theme. Patinkin’s “I Won’t Dance” ( Roberta ) leads into LuPone’s “I Want a Man” ( Rainbow ). They end Act 1 with New Faces of 1956’s , “April in Fairbanks.” For this rendition, Ann Reinking choreographed a carefree dance on rolling chairs.
There are signature songs for both. LuPone nails “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” from Gypsy and Patinkin clowns through Follies’ “The God-Why-Don't-You-Love-Me Blues” with roaring power.
In the show’s only anecdote, Patinkin recalls a phone call in the late 1970’s inviting him to audition for a new show starring Patti LuPone. Of course that show was Evita. Patinkin won the role of Che opposite LuPone's Eva Peron. At the performance I attended Patinkins' fierce delivery of Che’s, “Oh, What a Circus,” stopped the show. Then it was LuPone's turn. Could she deliver? What do you think? “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” nuanced with a softer, more compassionate Eva, was the second show-stopper, arms upraised, bringing even LuPone to tears. And that is how it’s done, folks, 30 years later.
After the Evita sequence, Patinkin turns tender with, “Somewhere That’s Green” from Little Shop of Horrors and LuPone keeps the mellow mood with “In Buddy’s Eyes” ( Follies ), as tissues are pulled from handbags. An outstanding sequence comes from Carousel. LuPone’s reflective, “What’s the Use of Wond’rin’” shows a wistful maturity that is more LuPone than Julie Jordan.
The pair ends the program with, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” But not really, since back they come for a swingy duet of, “You’re Just in Love” from Call Me Madam —and then return once again for a romp with “Coffee In a Cardboard Cup” from 70 Girls 70.
Lighting by Eric Cornwell on a projection screen illuminates the musical moods and Patinkin’s direction adds up to seamless entertainment. David Korins’ set is a collection of stand-up microphones and some chairs. The orchestration consists of Paul Ford on piano and John Beal on bass and with these two big–personality, big-passion, big-talent stars, they turn this into a master class for theater.
LuPone and Patinkin. . .who’s like them? Damn few!
Editor's Note: To read Elizabeth's review of the season's other big Broadway concert, Hugh Jackman Back on Broadway go here.
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