Mandy Patinkin - concert review (October 12, 2002)

Mandy Patinkin is familiar to audiences as both an actor and a singer, whose credits include TV's "Chicago Hope", the films "The Princess Bride", "Yentl" and "Dick Tracy", and Broadway's "Evita" and "Sunday in the Park with George".  We were quick to get tickets when we heard that he would be coming around on tour to the Orange County Performing Arts Center.  We'd been to OCPAC only once before, about 2 months previous, to see "The Phantom of the Opera", and that time, we had seats that were far up in the rafters, in an upper level seating configuration that I find odd and wasteful.  This time, however, we were fortunate to get seats that were in the orchestra in the 10th row, dead center, with no one in the row in front of us, to the point that when Patinkin sat at the edge of the stage to sing a few songs, he was staring right at us.  The only drawback to having those seats is that the design of the theatre is such that there is only one row going all the way across the auditorium, with no breaks, so we had to excuse ourselves to about 25 people to get to our seats.

The staging was quite bare. The front curtain was open, with various theatre apparati and props towards the back of the stage. Closer to the audience was a piano with a bench and a lightbulb on a stand on the other side. As the concert started, the house lights dimmed. A darkened figure took the stage and took his place at the piano. Soon after, Patinkin started to sing, and as the lights came up, he himself took the stage, dressed very casually and carrying out two huge baskets of flowers and placing one at either end of the stage. Having dropped a rosebud along the way, he picked it up and presented it to a lady sitting in the front row. He then noticed a lady in the right side of the first row and motioned to her, at which point she handed him her 4-month-old baby. As Patinkin continued to sing to the child, the baby boy, pacifier in mouth, just stared at him, prompting Patinkin at one point to say to the boy, "You don't care what I'm doing, do you?" Patinkin himself has two grown boys, and one can imagine the father he must have been when his boys were that young.

As I understand it, Patinkin has three shows running concurrently - the popular show, the Sondheim show, and the Yiddish show - and the venues can choose which show they want him to perform. The show we saw was the popular show, which is a mixture of different songs, including songs from his CD released last September entitled "Kidults". Patinkin also seems to have an affinity for Harry Chapin. Before singing the song "Cat's in the Cradle", he mentioned that his two kids had introduced the song to him by coming to him one day and singing the song for him.

In a show that runs about 2 hours with no intermission, Patinkin mixes songs with stories, even at one point taking a few minutes out to question some late arrivals as to their reasons for being late. Throughout the show, Patinkin shows good humour and most of all, enthusiasm and love of his craft. He is comfortable and easy-going in his performance, but his voice rings out with the passion of the notes, and it?s evident how much work has been put into the creation of the show.

During the course of the show, Patinkin told the story of a concert he was involved with for the opening of a new theatre complex near Dallas this past September. It turns out that promoters had told him that Patti Lupone was already committed, and they wanted him involved as well. When he spoke to Lupone herself, she said the promoters had told her that *he* was already committed and wanted *her* to be involved as well. Notwithstanding the negotiating tactic being used, both did commit to the show. The organizers had envisioned Lupone singing for 40 minutes, Patinkin singing for 40 minutes and then the two of them doing a song or two together. Patinkin stated that since he hadn't been on stage with Lupone in over 20 years, he wasn't going to just do one or two songs with her. Patinkin decided they could do a show that chronicled the history and development of musical theatre and solicited assistance from two friends and renowned experts on the subject to compile a list of songs/scenes to perform. Having received over 10 hours of suggestions from each of them, he whittled things down to a two hour show, with some songs and scenes that people wouldn't necessarily know and some that most would be familiar with, including one segment that retells the musical "South Pacific" in 15 minutes. Patinkin and Lupone had so much fun with the show that they plan to take it on tour, and Patinkin commented that they could do the tour forever because there any many other bits and scenes that could be swapped in and out. Patinkin's own tours have him booked well until Spring of 2003, so any tour with Lupone wouldn't be launched until at least then, presumably, but I know I will certainly keep my eyes out for that. We'd had recent discussions with friends who are also fans of Patinkin about what one would pay to see a reunion show of sorts with Patinkin and Lupone, and this show seems to fit that wish quite nicely.

Patinkin came out for an encore at the end of the show and again approached the woman with the baby, who again handed her child to Patinkin. What a shame that photography isn't allowed in the show, as that would be one amazing souvenir for the woman to have, Patinkin on stage holding her child. The baby was asleep, so Patinkin kept the light blanket over the child, protecting him from the glaring stage lights. As he held the baby while the audience applauded his last song, people started yelling out song requests, prompting Patinkin to mockingly shush the audience with "Shhhhh! The baby is sleeping!" Patinkin sat on the edge of the stage again, baby in his arms, singing a final song. You could see the baby squirm a bit, but you could also see Patinkin expertly rock and sooth the baby back to sleep. It was an incredible sight. Following the song, Patinkin gave the child back to his mother, and you could hear him say to her, "You have a beautiful baby."

Following the encore songs, the pianist left the stage and Patinkin stood alone. In what is apparently his signature concert closing, Patinkin took a fencer's stance and recited the lines that are all too familiar to fans of "The Princess Bride", after which Patinkin immediately ran off stage to the roars of the crowd.

Patinkin has a live album due out October 29 of Stephen Sondheim songs. I could not find an official website for Patinkin, but this site is a fan-run site that has extensive amounts of information, including detailed tour information.


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