Tuesday, February 9, 2010

An Evening with Patti Lupone & Mandy Patinkin

The opportunity to see two Broadway legends take part in a brilliant musical conversation between themselves, the audience, and a virtual mini-encyclopedia of composers is one of those rare musical theatre gems one just doesn’t want to miss. An Evening with Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin, created and directed by Patinkin himself, and currently running at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, is a cavalcade of witty characterization and breathtaking singing that is held together by two full sets of memorable songs from shows such as South Pacific and Carousel. 

Selections from these two classic musicals dominate the first and second acts respectively, and take us through a loose narrative that creates the perfect setting for performers at the height of their careers, performing songs they might have done at any stage during the decades they have graced theatres across the continent and worldwide. 

Interspersed with tunes from a variety of other composers, the evening takes on a light story like quality as the two engage in a dialogue of sorts that showcases their amazing ability to move in and out of song, conversation, and light choreography with seamless style and musicality.

Patinkin’s meticulous delivery and his playfully sexy way of gesticulating and telling stories as he relates to his co-star enlivens every song. His breathtaking voice, moving effortlessly from powerful low ranges into a near falsetto is both idiosyncratic and virtuosic. On opening night a mesmerizing rendition of Pennies From Heaven, as an encore, was seemingly prompted by Ms. Lupone’s own beautiful a capella encore interlude, giving the evening a fresh, personal, and unscripted finale.

Lupone, as always, stunned the audience with her emotive and unique versions of Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, and Everything’s Coming Up Roses from her 2009 Tony award winning performance in Gypsy. These two songs showcased the highlights of a career that has spanned over thirty years. Her first Tony came from her role as Eva Peron in Evita where she co-starred with Patinkin, who also won the Tony for his portrayal of Che Guevara.

The evening had Patinkin playing paradoxical straight man to Lupone’s delightful and whimsical blocking as he followed some of her bravura solos with idiosyncratic numbers such as The-God-Why-Don’t-You-Love-Me-Blues from Follies, and his gorgeous ballad-like version of Somewhere That’s Green from Little Shop of Horrors. His effusive comic generosity and the ways in which his facial expressions loomed large gave his slight subservience a cheeky glare that never stole the spotlight. Rather, both performers equally shared the evening with their formidable and compatible talents. A duet of Baby It’s Cold Outside became a glorious mélange of two voices in competition and both coming up gold. 

Truly a divine pleasure to see two veteran performers up there singing, dancing delicately in office chairs with the aid of brilliant choreographer Ann Reinking, and chatting back and forth as they strung together so many magical musical theatre moments.


An Evening With Patti Lupone & Mandy Patinkin runs at the Royal Alexandra until February 14th  (260 King Street West) 416 872-1212

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