TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE: An Evening With Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin
Get caught up with what’s on stage with our review round-up. And that vaguely hollow, clinking sound you hear at the end of each segment? That’s me tossing in my two cents.
Reunited for the first time on Broadway since their legendary debuts in Evita, the music theater powerhouses join forces for a “musical love story told entirely through a masterful selection of some of the greatest songs ever written for the stage.”
“I found myself as riveted by the sometimes deliriously odd selection of material as I was thrilled by the vocal luster that both performers have retained after more than three decades on the theater and concert stages.” New York Times
“LuPone and Patinkin have such an easy, comfortable rapport that it’s hard to believe they haven’t shared a show since Evita.” New York Post
“Pleasant and sweet are not words you might ordinarily associate with these two, but their Broadway concert is both.” Variety
“It’s just two hours of good old-fashioned musical theater.” Entertainment Weekly
Mizer’s Two Cents: Patti LuPone and Stephen Sondheim are texting buddies. Or so the audience discovered during the wildly spontaneous opening night performance of this show. A few songs into the first act, Ms. LuPone shook her head, mouthed some choice (though clearly lighthearted) curses at her music director and then asked us if she could just try the Sondheim tongue-twister “Getting Married Today” again after messing up the lyrics. Patinkin lost it then hugged her with joyous solidarity. The audience roared. Then LuPone stopped the show to share that she’d asked Mr. Sondheim for some pre-show advice and he had texted her back, “Don’t f*ck up my songs.” Delicious. She then stepped back into the song and a few minutes later, we were all transported again.
Why do I mention this (other than to relate a great, “only in the theater” moment)? It turns out this “breaking of character” is emblematic of the playful, intimate evening that LuPone and Patinkin have created. If you want to see greatest hits belted to the rafters and career spanning patter, then this concert isn’t for you. But if you are interested in two inimitable theater artists playfully pushing boundaries of scene-craft and stretching their muscles, then it is a moving, invigorating evening. Long edited sequences from Carousel, South Pacific and Merrily, We Roll Along are master classes in the nuances of making transitions from dialogue to song and, though they may never be cast in these roles, the duo creates something emotionally true and enveloping in the scenes. I particularly loved the unexpected inclusion of “Somewhere That’s Green” from Little Shop of Horrors (paired with “Buddy’s Eyes” from Follies) sung by Patinkin with bare simplicity as LuPone fluttered about an imaginary house with articulate grace. It’s not often you think of these two larger than life performers as delicate but it is magic here.
In the end, this evening is a love story–actually two love stories. It is a toast to the stars’ real and sustaining theatrical friendship, gently then raucously revealed through their hugs (a friend dubbed Patinkin “Handsy Patinkin” after watching him fondle and tease LuPone through the night), their trust and their respect for each other’s abilities. It’s also a love note written to music theater; two great talents exploring what is possible with just a few chairs, a piano and a belief in the power of imagination and craft.