Disclaimer: All objectivity will be thrown out of the window with this review as I adore Patti LuPone, but then again, when have theatre reviewers ever been objective?!
In January I had the honour of seeing Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin perform in New York City. Seeing Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin together on Broadway was a dream come true for me, it was the pinnacle of theatrical experiences.
Patti LuPone is the greatest musical theatre performer of her generation. She is the only living Broadway performer comparable to Ethel Merman and Mary Martin. Patti’s onstage electricity is enough to light-up the whole of Broadway and this is what she does in every single performance. Patti’s limitless talent, unique voice and powerful onstage presence means she is a Diva, in the best sense of the word. I love the fact she is a diva on stage but very down to earth in real life. One of the most remarkable things about Patti is she is so unique, when you hear her sing it can only be Patti LuPone. This is very rare nowadays; I often find it difficult to differentiate between musical theatre stars, they all sound so similar.
Mandy Patinkin is a truly great talent, having made his mark in both film and TV. He can currently be seen on ‘Homeland’. However I feel his true home is in the musical theatre. Mandy Patinkin is the only person who can match Patti LuPone thunderous onstage presence. I have a feeling that when she is on stage, everyone else may as well be off. Patti and Mandy complement each other perfectly; they go together like gin and tonic, like Simon and Garfunkel, like strawberries and cream, like martini and olives…Watching Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin was watching two masters of their craft.
What was lovely about their show was seeing their 30 year friendship and genuine affection for each other; they were 100% comfortable with each other. ‘An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin’ showed through song the evolution of a relationship between two people. It had hits from ‘Gypsy’ and ‘Evita’, of course, and songs from The Great American Songbook, plus plenty of Sondheim. Patti and Mandy are theatrical soulmates. The duo have been performing their show on-off for the last 10 years.
The show began with ‘Another Hundred People’, the perfect New York song. The duo re-enacted a scene from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘Carousel’, and Mandy sang, ‘You’re a Queer One, Julie Jordan’. Patti also sang Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘A Cockeyed Optimist’ and they sang ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ together. I remember seeing an interview where Patti said she had always wanted to play Nellie in ‘South Pacific’ and Ado Annie in ‘Oklahoma!’ so I guess this was her chance to sing one of those songs.
As I went on their closing night on Broadway, there were plenty of celebrities in the audience including Carol Kane, Marlo Thomas and Alan Rickman. It was very much a classic New York Theatre night. Carol Kane, Mandy’s co-star in ‘The Princess Bride’, was with her mother and was very dressed down wearing a ‘Wicked’ body warmer jacket. I found Alan Rickman rather annoying as at the end of the show he said very loudly, ‘Patti said to come backstage after the show’, however I had a much better seat than him!
A very touching moment came when Mandy recalled how he and Patti became such good friends. They became friends whilst starring together in ‘Evita’ which launched both to them to stardom, Patti played Eva Peron, of course, and Mandy played Che. There had been difficulties with ‘Evita’, with Mandy diplomatically saying, ‘we were young and didn’t have the experience and skills to be equipped to deal with issues beyond our control’. Patti had been crying in her dressing room and Mandy was knocking on her door, trying to see if she was OK, eventually she let him in. He remembered seeing her ‘childlike eyes as big as saucers’ and saying to Patti that he was her friend and always would be.’ 30 years on and their friendship is testament to that.
Highlights for me included, ‘(Not) Getting Married Today’ which was hilarious. The contrast between Mandy, playing the straight man, singing the hymn-like part, with Patti’s comedic neuroticism was incredibly funny. Patti was splattering an audience member with water then threw a box of tissues at the guy which was so funny. Another comedic moment came with their performance of ‘April in Fairbanks’ which they performed on office chairs doing a little chair dance.
Mandy’s performance of ‘Oh What a Circus’ was truly electrifying. He put in so much passion into the song that I thought it was even better than his version on the cast album. Seeing Patti perform, ‘Some People’ was a dream come true.
When I was coming out of the show I bumped into Cynthia Nixon, who was playing in ‘Wit’ next door (and bald for the role), it was funny as she was signing autographs for only a few fans whereas they was a huge crowd waiting for Patti and Mandy; we all know Patti LuPone is the biggest star on Broadway!
I felt truly privileged to see such legendary, talented performers as Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin. I recommend that you don’t walk but run to the theatre to see these two. Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin represent the absolute best in musical theatre and their talent is unrivalled.