An Evening With Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin

12.7.2011

By Max Berlinger

These Broadway babies are still going strong, three decades after starring together in 'Evita.'

Warning: An Evening With Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin is not for the Broadway novice. Those who enjoy a chirpy tune, bedazzled costumes, and a whole lotta huffing' should be wary of this concert performance, featuring two longstanding legends of the Great White Way. That's not to say that there aren't plenty of fireworks, but they are of the more intimate kind, courtesy of two performers who, over time, are more at ease and comfortable onstage than most people are in their day-to-day lives. 

 
Even if you consider yourself a fan of musical theater, you should definitely bone up on your knowledge of lesser-known melodies. While Stephen Sondheim's work is heavily featured in the two-act evening, being able to hum a few bars from Sweeney Todd isn't going to help you out here. Barring a few classic turns center stage belting out numbers for which they've become known for (Lupone viscerally hollers her way through "Everything's Comin' Up Roses," and Patinkin winningly mugs "The God-Why-Don't-You-Love-Me-Blues," before a brief rehashing of their most remembered songs from Evita) the musical numbers err on the side of the obscure, including lesser-knowns from Sondheim's oeuvre including Passion and Evening Primrose
 
There are certainly moments that will be familiar to some, as when the two open the show with a curtailed version of the romantic courtship from Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific. Lupone unabashedly espouses her cockeyed optimism, while Patinkin coos the well-tread ballad "Some Enchanted Evening." The evening closes with another familiar R&H wooing, this time courtesy of Carousel. Personally, I was a bit bashful as they began to delve into this, as the crux of this scene hinges on two young, inexperienced lovers carefully navigating the possibilities of romance. Would these ripened performers look silly being so—well—coquettish? Would they fall into the trap of playing dumb? Neither occurred. In fact, it proved that, indeed, youth is so often wasted on the young. They brought a world-weary sense of tragic foreshadowing, as well as a beautifully grounded adroitness to the exchange. Billy Bigelow and Julie Jordan as innocents from a Greek tragedy. 
 
In many ways, Lupone and Patinkin oftentimes came across as being broad stereotypes of their stage alter egos—though in many ways that's merely a testament to the enduring appeal of their idiosyncratic performance styles. They've been treading the boards long enough to have molded their own particular and unique archetypes, ones that audiences continually respond to. Few can get away with balance being so dedicated to a character all the while retaining their most memorable traits. Other highlights of the evening were Lupone's throaty rendition of "A Quiet Thing," from Flora The Red Menace and the way she manipulated her instrument throughout her various songs. At times she was vocally biting, brash, and acerbic, and others she opened into a sonorous, rich wall of sound—alway, though, maintaining her storied diction. Patinkin, on the other hand, showed the quiet power in his more subdued performance. While he mostly eschewed the vocal pyrotechnics of his partner, his speak-sing patter was a reminder that singing is merely an emotionally charged extension of speaking. 
 
It was a shame that the chatter between the two was kept at a minimum, seeing as there must be a great deal of juicy gossip to be shared between the pair, but night avoided devolving into a campy concert-cum-bitchfest. Instead, the pair remained dedicated to doing what they've done for decades—delivering fully-committed performances. 
 
An Evening with Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin plays through January 13th, 2012. For more information, click HERE
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