An Evening With Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin

Conceived by Mandy Patinkin and Paul Ford
Directed by Mandy Patinkin
Featuring Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin
Ethel Barrymore Theatre, 243 West 47th Street
November 21, 2011 — January 13, 2012

Reviewed by Martha Wade Steketee

Mandy Patinkin and Patti Lupone. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Several events attended over the past week have loomed large and have given me pause, in the “once in a lifetime” or “I’ll take a few days to process this” way.  The week began with Miss Liza Minnelli at Birdland, proceeded to a number of fine theatrical adventures reviewed and not yet reviewed, and culminated two days ago with a small group audience and seminar with Zoe Caldwell that I shall continue to process for years to come.  Breaths breathed, context established, bearings regained, several days after the fact, I now approach the midweek gift of a Broadway evening with Mandy Patinkin and Patti Lupone, friends and colleagues, masters of their craft.  Giving an old-fashioned recital of favorites and rarities.  Providing acting and performance master classes on stage in long swallows (e.g. the bookend duet performances of song and dialogue sequences from South Pacific and Carousel) and rarefied little glimpses (Mandy performing “Somewhere That’s Green” from Little Shop of Horrors).

Two singers and actors, simply adorned, on a stage delightfully crowded with ghost lights put to varying illuminated use as the show proceeds — and it is all about the songs. Stories of lives in songs.  Just selections from the individual artist’s favorite ballads and the expected star turns in delightfully unexpected places in the program.  “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” Patti delivers as she did in Gypsy comes at the top of Act II immediately followed by “The God-Why-Don’t-You-Love-Me Blues” delivered as Mandy delivered in the 1985 concert version of Follies, and the Act moves on to another little bit of performance pas de deux  and some rarities, some of which don’t if we’re honest, quite land.  But we in the audience allow breadth of selection because, in that grace, they then gift us with show stoppers and quiet charmers including a surprising rendition of “A Quiet Thing” from Flora, the Red Menace.  And so many others.

We are musically all over the map and psychically right at home, in an old-fashioned family salon that happens to occur in a Broadway theater.  With ghost lights and some choreography (courtesy of Ann Reinking) and terrific musical accompaniment by music director Paul Ford on piano and John Beal on bass. And enchanting old old friend chemistry between old old friends who giggle and cuddle and support and perform — for each other as much as for us.

© Martha Wade Steketee (November 29, 2011)

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