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|Mandy Patinkin CD's:|
Follies In Concert (1985 Live Performance)
Sunday In The Park With George
Grandma Doralee Patinkin's Jewish Family Cookbook
(1997), Doralee Patinkin Rubin
Discovering Great Singers of Classic Pop:
A New Listener's Guide to the Sounds, and Lives of the
Top Performers and Their Recordings, Movies, and Videos
(1992), Roy Hemming, David Hajdu (Editor)
CV first heard Mandy Patinkin in San
Francisco in 1979 playing Che Guevara in the musical Evita, which was on its way to Broadway. (Twenty years
ago! Patinkin still looks great. Don't even ask about CV.) Evita is one of
those Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals with one great tune (Don't Cry for Me Argentina)
around which a distinctly mediocre show was built. But Patinkin was electric, his charisma
and his intensity (and, back then, his youth) glowing with white heat from the stage.
We've been fans ever since.
Patinkin has gone on, of course, to become the preeminent Broadway leading man of his generation, an actor/singer of intelligence, intellect, and integrity. We were fortunate (over a decade ago) to catch him playing the leading role, Georges Seurat, in the Broadway musical Sunday in the Park with George, one of Stephen Sondheim's finest works, in which Patinkin was riveting as the painter obsessed with his work, with creating great art.
He has also made a very diverse group of movies. Best known, perhaps, are Yentl and The Princess Bride; less known, but more interesting, CV thinks, are The Music of Chance and Impromptu. A look at Patinkin's filmography instantly makes it clear that he has never chosen his films on a commercial basis, but on what he was interested in doing artistically. In his forays into television, particularly Chicago Hope, he seemed to transcend the soapy environment. The broader exposure that television offers surely has added significantly to his legion of fans.
Wedged amongst all those activities, Patinkin has performed a series of theater concerts/tours in which he showcases his eclectic musical interests and talents. We saw him in concert at the Orpheum in 1996 and now, having recovered from a second corneal transplant operation in late 1998, Patinkin is on tour again. CV was delighted to catch his current show in San Francisco. (San Francisco may be inadequate to the task of getting its public transportation up to snuff, but it has the good taste to support a week's worth of Mandy Patinkin performances.)
Patinkin's concert is an informal affair. With just a bare stage and his long time accompanist, Paul Ford, he comes on casually dressed, and at least gives the impression of being totally at ease, relaxed and comfortable with his audience. He then launches into a program of some two dozen songs/medleys, sometimes with commentary between numbers, sometimes getting into audience participation (the latter less objectionable than his audience participation routine three years ago, which was a mistake.)
With his powerful baritone voice Patinkin can belt out a song in the Jolson tradition (Swanee was included in his finale medley) or he can sing a love song (Sondheim's Loving You from Passion), gliding into a high falsetto with sweetness and expressiveness.
Patinkin likes to play songs off of one another, starting, for example with You Are Beautiful from Rodgers and Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song and segueing into Not a Day Goes By from Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along, using his high register for the gentleness of the former, dropping into his lower register as he builds the intensity in the latter.
He offered a light preview of an album-in-process to be titled Kidults, "children's songs that will also appeal to the kid in the adult." Not quite ready to get through the sound effects of a quacking ugly duckling, he was nonetheless effective in these numbers, revealing his fatherliness - and confessing that his son is already 16.
Patinkin does a different concert called Mamaloshen in which he draws on his cultural heritage and sings entirely in Yiddish. He included a couple of those numbers here and the house felt like a vaudeville on the lower East Side as he pattered through a Yiddish version of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious from the film Mary Poppins only to follow that with a Yiddish Hokey Pokey for which he gets the entire audience on its feet and dancing. Corny? Sure. But for this audience, Patinkin could do no wrong.
There were good giggles from a parody number, April in Fairbanks, a rousing Trouble in River City from Meredith Willson's The Music Man, and one of Patinkin's signature songs, Finishing the Hat, from Sunday in the Park with George. The amazing Taxi, Harry Chapin's complete story/drama in one song ("We both got what we asked for, such a long time ago..."), is a perfect song for Patinkin, a song that needs fine acting as well as fine singing. The audience virtually gasped in pleasure at its conclusion.
Patinkin took a few minutes to get political and, with great sincerity and conviction, expressed concern over recent events in Littleton and in Kosovo. He is making a plea for funds on this tour to support two organizations Pax and Doctors Without Borders. Audience response seemed supportive and generous.
If Patinkin's voice is no longer that of a twenty-five year old, it matters little. Great musical performers - and he surely is just that - learn to compensate for the encroachments of time upon their instruments, and the more mature performer has meanwhile accumulated technique, experience and wisdom which are worth far more to the performance than effortless changes of register. As long as Patinkin sings, we want to be there.
- Arthur Lazere