Here's a typical reaction after catching Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin's concert show now on Broadway: Oh, that's how it's done.
In other words, that's how songs by Stephen Sondheim and Jerome Kern or Rodgers and Hammerstein should sound. That's how two veteran performers can keep you spellbound with no props except a pair of rolling chairs and some floor lamps. That's how a concert can be both intimate and goofy, touching and confident.
To watch "An Evening With Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin," which opened Monday at the Barrymore Theatre, is to witness two people so comfortable on stage and so at ease with each other and the material that it doesn't look like they're working. (They are, though, just watch Patinkin mop his brow at several points). They're like a glamorous couple taking the curves on the Corniche in a purring Italian sports car.
The show is basically a series of songs connected by theme that celebrate the careers and friendship of LuPone and Patinkin, who have remained close since they were cast in the original "Evita" in the late 1970s, he as Che and she as Eva Peron.
Their voices are still strong and their chemistry evident — Patinkin's deep, passionate tones match his partner's playful skill. Even standing still and staring at her, he radiates a power and a partnership. LuPone, meanwhile, often approaches her songs sideways, giving them new, spicy texture.
The first half leans on "South Pacific," and the second has multiple songs from "Carousel,""Merrily We Roll Along" and "Evita." Sprinkled throughout are book scenes, dances and a touching moment when Patinkin embraces his partner and explains how they met.
The transitions between songs (to take just two, "Getting Married Today" from "Company" morphs into "Loving You" from "Passion" and "I Have a Room Above Her" from "Show Boat," which brilliantly melds into "Baby It's Cold Outside" from "Neptune's Daughter")adds a new twist to songs, making this a sort of master class.
LuPone and Patinkin have also put down a marker to any pretenders out there. Patinkin, who also directs, turns "The God-Why-Don't-You-Love-Me Blues" into a roaring tour de force that can be heard down the road at the Marquis Theatre, where "Follies" is currently playing. Hugh Jackman might note Patinkin's funny take on "I Won't Dance," which Wolverine also attempts in his concert show but not nearly as well. And heaven help the folks from the upcoming revival of "Evita" — LuPone sings "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" so powerfully that she is reduced to tears. Good luck following that.
This dynamic, Tony Award-winning duo remind us of some wonderful songs, among them "Somewhere That's Green" from "Little Shop of Horrors" and "Old Folks" from "70, Girls, 70." They also hit the standards we've come to expect, including "Everything's Coming Up Roses" from "Gypsy" and "You'll Never Walk Alone" from "Carousel." (Unfortunately, Patinkin doesn't offer his take on "Children Will Listen").
LuPone and Patinkin are joined on stage by Paul Ford, who helped conceive the show with Patinkin and plays piano, and John Beal on bass. The set itself is just a projection screen that glows rich colors in synch with the moods of the songs, and a couple dozen randomly placed floor lamps with exposed bulbs.
In one highlight that ends Act 1, LuPone and Patinkin sing "April in Paris," which then effortlessly switches to "April in Fairbanks" as they sit on two rolling office chairs and then proceed to dance in them before shooting across the stage in tandem. (Ann Reinking is the dance consultant). It's simple, funny and winning.
The last song listed is "You'll Never Walk Alone" from "Carousel," but don't get up just yet. LuPone and Patinkin aren't done, so expect an encore or two. Any why not? When you're this good, this strong, this playful, a few extra songs is a pleasure to perform and hear.
‘It takes two. I thought one was enough, it’s not true: It takes two of us.” That lyric from “Into the Woods” could be the motto of “An Evening With Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin,” and the twosome in question are a pair of stage royalty.
On Broadway through Jan. 13, the power-couple concert shimmers with charm, magic and a genuine chummy closeness, even if it’s a bit narrow in song selection and self-contained for the supersized stars.
Still, watching LuPone and Patinkin (ManPone, perhaps?) together on Broadway — their first reunion there in nearly 30 years — is pure theater pleasure. They’ve been touring this show around the U.S. and Australia since 2001 and have arrived at the Ethel Barrymore in strong voice, charismatic and commanding.
It’s an intimate piece. They are accompanied only by pianist Paul Ford and bassist John Beal. The stage is decked with 30 colored ghost lights and a screen that changes hues.
The two-hour musical mosaic loosely traces a couple’s relationship from first love to maturity and back. It is bookended by extended Rodgers and Hammerstein scenes — sunlit moments from “South Pacific” and moonlit ones from “Carousel.” In between the stars cover many songs from the Stephen Sondheim catalogue, including “Into the Woods,” “Merrily We Roll Along” and “Company.”
Patinkin, who conceived the show with Ford, directs and makes playful juxtapositions part of the enjoyment. Streaming “Getting Married Today,” “Loving You” and “I’m Old Fashioned” in succession reveals a triptych of passionate personalities. Most numbers are familiar, but “April in Fairbanks” from “New Faces of 1956” is an exception. It makes for a very cute and inventive close to Act I as the performers glide and twirl on swivel chairs. Ann Reinking is credited as a dance consultant.
Other highlights come when LuPone reprises anthems from her Tony-winning roles — “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” from “Gypsy,” and “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” from “Evita” — and when Patinkin revisits “Oh What a Circus” from “Evita,” and “The God-Why-Don’t-You-Love-Me Blues” from “Follies,” which he did as a concert in 1985.
Because the stars stay in character, it’s a little jarring when LuPone and Patinkin only share memories about their 1979 “Evita” breakthrough, but not before or after the entire show. It would’ve been great to get more personal insights, since these two are the essence of individuality.
Maybe next time.
If you love show tunes and these two stars, this is “An Evening” you’ll want to put on your calendar.
You may have heard about the Australian star currently setting Broadway on fire. The heat that emanates from “An Evening With Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin,” three blocks away from Hugh Jackman’s theater, is more of the smoldering kind — but in its own way it’s just as intense.
The pair certainly isn’t going for razzmatazz. David Korins’ bare set consists of several ghost lights, creating an effect that’s subtle and evocative rather than flashy. Backed only by pianist/music director Paul Ford and bassist John Beal, LuPone and Patinkin skip the shows they’re famous for: “Anything Goes,” “Sunset Boulevard,” “Les Misérables” for her; “Sunday in the Park With George” for him.
And yet we’re not being short-changed, as the song balances obscure nuggets (Kander and Ebb’s “Coffee in a Cardboard Cup”) and classics (“Some Enchanted Evening,” “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”).
Those dead set on hearing the songs these two made their own won’t be entirely disappointed. LuPone does give us “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” from “Gypsy,” and the duo perform a number each from “Evita,” which marked their only joint Broadway appearance until now.
Midway through the second act, Patinkin — who also directed — delivers the evening’s only bit of banter by recalling his audition for that show, in April 1979 — without mentioning either “Evita” or composer Andrew Lloyd Webber by name.
Patinkin then jumps into an incendiary rendition of “Oh What a Circus,” which LuPone follows with a relatively restrained “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.” That song has been a staple of her concerts forever, and for good reason: She owns it.
Rather than merely stringing ditties along, the show follows a gracefully theatrical arc about the highs and lows of love. LuPone and Patinkin know exactly when to put on the turbo — as with “April in Fairbanks,” when they roll around the stage on office chairs — and when to apply the soft pedal. They’re playing the audience as much as the material.
The stars also breathe new life into songs we thought we knew — as when Patinkin sings “Somewhere That’s Green,” performed by a woman in “Little Shop of Horrors.”
And in one of two extended sequences dedicated to a particular musical — the other being “Carousel” — LuPone reimagines Nellie Forbush, turning the young heroine of “South Pacific” into an older, wiser woman who finds love at long last.
Throughout, LuPone and Patinkin have such an easy, comfortable rapport that it’s hard to believe they haven’t shared a show since “Evita.” It’s even harder not to fantasize about them one day sharing a bona fide musical.
A serious case of whiplash hovers as a distinct possibility throughout “An Evening With Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin,” a concert performance and mutual lovefest from these veteran musical theater stars that opened on Monday night at the Ethel Barrymore Theater.
Watching these two inimitable talents reel through an eclectic program of theater songs is a bit like riding one of those wonderful old wooden roller coasters at a seaside resort. One minute you’re levitating with exhilaration, the next you’re clinging to your seat for dear life, terrified that disaster is imminent. I am glad to report that the exhilaration far outweighs the intimations of peril.
As most in the audience will surely know, Ms. LuPone and Mr. Patinkin first performed together more than 30 years ago when they vaulted to fame in the smash musical “Evita.” They have not been reunited in a musical since, and it’s moving to see them reigniting their rapport with such obvious affection and excitement. Both are generously gifted singers who invest themselves in music with a commitment that never flags and an emotional intensity that can scorch.
But while they need no introduction to their many ardent fans, the program they have put together certainly needs some explanation for those planning to attend. Unfortunately, I’m not sure I can really provide much, so woolly and occasionally perverse is the selection of material in this show, which was conceived by Mr. Patinkin and Paul Ford and directed by Mr. Patinkin.
To cite a single example: The first act closes with the pair performing a goofball pas de deux while rolling around the stage in office chairs, singing a throwaway comic number, “April in Fairbanks,” written by Murray Grand for “New Faces of 1956.” Go figure.
Nor would I wish to spoil the gawping fun there is in discovering what strange juxtaposition or unlikely song choice is around the next curve. 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.
Still, there’s a list of songs (subject to change) in the program, so divulgences are permissible. Yes, Mr. Patinkin and Ms. LuPone perform two numbers from the musical that brought them together, after Mr. Patinkin addresses the audience for the first time in this mostly insular evening to reminisce about his casting in the show and the youthful anxiety that cemented their friendship.
The decades melt away when Mr. Patinkin then steps into the spotlight to perform “Oh What a Circus” from “Evita,” with the same combination of seething rage and biting sarcasm that brings to mind his original turn.
Ms. LuPone then takes her turn in the circle of nostalgia to sing — what else? — “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” the signature anthem from the musical, which on this occasion resonates with double meaning as a hard-working, sometimes hard-luck diva’s pledge of affection to her loyal audience. Readers, I was verklempt.
It would have been natural to save these rousing moments for the finale or even the encore, but Mr. Patinkin and Ms. LuPone are clearly intent on avoiding the obvious. Commendably, the program is not intended to indulge the audience’s desire for a greatest-hits parade. Although the show is amply stocked with selections from the songbook of Stephen Sondheim, for example, Mr. Patinkin doesn’t offer anything from his celebrated turn in “Sunday.” Go figure. (Ms. LuPone does toss the audience a little Rose with a selection from “Gypsy.”)
The show is performed, with minimal musical accompaniment — the fine duo of Mr. Ford on piano and John Beal on bass — on a stage adorned only by a forest of winking ghost lights: those bare-bulbed stands left glowing all night after the show is over. The atmosphere is intimate and informal, as if Ms. LuPone and Mr. Patinkin had stolen back to the boards after the curtain had come down to perform a personal musicale for an invited audience of friends and family: songs they’ve always wanted to do together but never had the chance to.
The songs of Mr. Sondheim are rewarding territory for both performers, who like to burrow into the psychological depths of a character and find new nuances to bring forth. I confess I was at first mystified and ultimately moved by the pairing of “Somewhere That’s Green,” a wistful paean to mid-20th-century domestic contentment from “Little Shop of Horrors,” here in a gender-switched performance by Mr. Patinkin, and “In Buddy’s Eyes,” from Mr. Sondheim’s “Follies,” in which the character of Sally sings of the emotional rewards of her not altogether happy marriage. Ms. LuPone’s version was vivid, vocally assured and affecting.
Mr. Patinkin’s finest moment may have been his fiery rendition of another song from “Follies.” Leaping between the lovelorn character of Buddy and the showgirls impersonating the two loves in his life in “The God-Why-Don’t-You-Love-Me-Blues,” Mr. Patinkin was ferocious and hilarious, deploying his mellifluous crooning falsetto to portray the girls and at one point literally yelping like a wounded puppy.
The evening’s ricketier segments involved Ms. LuPone and Mr. Patinkin’s headlong dive into the emotional thickets of two classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals: “South Pacific” and “Carousel.” Neither singer is particularly at home in the wholesome optimism associated with that composer-lyricist team, and you have to admire their adventurousness in choosing to include significant chunks of dialogue from the shows, in addition to selected songs.
Still, as Nellie Forbush would not say — oy! Mr. Patinkin was reasonably persuasive as Emile de Becque and Billy Bigelow, and it was intriguing to hear “Some Enchanted Evening” performed with an emotional lilt it rarely receives when sung by a sturdy operatic baritone.
But Ms. LuPone’s valiant efforts to enact the unworldly optimism of Nellie and the pure-hearted sensitivity of Julie Jordan were a little wince-making. An old-school ingénue she isn’t, and probably never really was.
But even as I winced, I remained transfixed, and Ms. LuPone and Mr. Patinkin have certainly earned the right to test the boundaries of their talents. When speaking of their youthful collaboration on “Evita,” Mr. Patinkin recalled visiting his co-star’s dressing room during the tryout in San Francisco. Behind the closed door they hugged each other tightly, trying to wish away the fear that gripped them. It was a touching story, for onstage, where it matters, these two driven performers come across as nothing short of fearless.
Restraint is not the first word one expects to use when describing either Patti LuPone or Mandy Patinkin. Conventional discipline and delicate taste are not qualities that have defined the mid-careers of these singing actors with their boulder-size proportions of talent, temperament and, some days, emotional excess.
But take the floor bolts out of the furniture and the bars of the windows. "An Evening With Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin" is glorious -- an intimate, affectionate, restrained but never boring lovefest between great old friends and great musical theater.
The two-hour concert, which the pair has sporadically performed around the country, has settled on Broadway through Jan. 13 as if it belongs there forever. There is no plot, just a piano and a string bass and some colored ghost lights on poles. Except for Patinkin's memories of their Tony-winning debuts in the 1979 "Evita" (he does a passionate "Oh What a Circus," she a hauntingly quiet "Don't Cry for Me Argentina"), there is no chatter.
The song list is bliss -- plenty from Stephen Sondheim, and Rodgers and Hammerstein works that the duo is too old now to get cast in, with spots of novelty, ingeniously overlapping medleys and just enough recap of their hits we feared we'd never hear them sing, or sing this well, again.
And they are both in wonderful voice, individually and in ravishing blends, ice-picking high notes without drawing attention to technique. Both are rapid-patter virtuosos. She, no longer swooping or smearing into notes, meticulously articulates every bullet-fast word in "Getting Married Today." He, no longer overdoing the falsetto part of his freaky wonder of a voice, delivers all the scary-good vaudeville characters of "Buddy's Blues."
She sings "Everything's Coming Up Roses" with the freshness of someone who hadn't repeated it eight times a week for years. Although nobody is ever going to buy him as a debonair French plantation owner or her as a hick buttercup, they bring their own peculiar rightness to a series from "South Pacific."
Patinkin, who co-created the show with his invaluable pianist Paul Ford and also directs, genuinely seems to adore showing LuPone off. They joke through a sweet ballet on rolling desk chairs. The show starts with Sondheim's "Another Hundred People," about New York being "a city of strangers." Not at the Barrymore it isn't.
A few are included in An Evening With Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin (**** out of four), but they're not the essence of this sublime show, which opened Monday at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. What these two old friends offer — with no set or costumes to speak of, and only a bassist and piano player accompanying them — is something much richer: a celebration of and master class in musical acting.
We're not talking about the kind of drama too often exhibited in contemporary Broadway productions, where crooners attack, hold and embellish notes as if they expect Simon Cowell to leap out the orchestra section and offer them record contracts. No, this is singing in service of character, and of the indelible melodies and lyrics that have fueled some of the greatest stories told on stage.
It's no accident that the most prominent lyricists in the program are Oscar Hammerstein II and his protégé, Stephen Sondheim. Patinkin, who also directed An Evening, saluted both masters on his 1995 album Oscar & Steve. And both Patinkin and LuPone have starred in Broadway productions of Sondheim shows to wide acclaim, he in the original Sunday in the Park With George and she in revivals of Sweeney Todd and Gypsy.
Only one number from those three classics, Gypsy's Everything's Coming Up Roses, is included here. Elsewhere, the performers lend their distinctive voices to other standards and choice cult favorites. Patinkin delivers one of the most dynamic, exuberant versions of Everybody Says Don't that you'll ever hear, LuPone one of the flat-out funniest readings of Getting Married Today.
Both stars, but LuPone especially, also reveal the capacity for nuance that has sometimes been overshadowed by their brassier work. Her elegant, gently moving renditions of I'm Old-Fashioned and A Quiet Thing are the opposite of scenery-chewing; and speaking lines from the books of South Pacific and Carousel, she and Patinkin are completely convincing and gorgeously tender playing ingénues and their nervous wooers.
The two have some giddy fun, as well — there's a dance routine executed while wheeling around on chairs — and indulge fans by acknowledging the show that made them both Broadway icons, and buddies: Evita. Patinkin's irresistibly operatic Oh What A Circus and LuPone's diva-licious Don't Cry For Me Argentina both earned standing ovations at Saturday night's preview.
But the emotional high point came later. An Evening concludes with a selection of tunes from Carousel, Rodgers and Hammerstein's darkly beautiful masterwork. Singing ballads informed by love and death, sacrifice and survival, with both fierce conviction and exquisite grace, LuPone and Patinkin fittingly wrap a show that should not be missed by anyone who still believes in great musical storytelling — or anyone who has stopped believing in it, for that matter.
"Old folks sit around by the television set, sighing one perpetual sigh," according to Kander and Ebb's song "Old Folks," which opens the second act of "An Evening With Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin." LuPone and Patinkin are certainly not old folks, except perhaps to theatergoers in their teens or 20s, and they are still vibrant performers. But the atmosphere of "old folks" -- and a nostalgic, sit-around-with-friends-in-the-living-room feeling -- permeates the affair. Pleasant and sweet are not words you might ordinarily associate with these two, but their Broadway concert is both.
The pair -- who first starred opposite each other in Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Evita" in 1979 -- bring some of that old magic to the Barrymore, most noticeably when he sings "Oh What a Circus" and she sings "Don't Cry for Me Argentina," both from "Evita." They also each reprise one of their other signature numbers.
But the rest of the night is showtunes, some of which make sense coming from LuPone and Patinkin and others of which do not. The show is anchored by extended chunks of "South Pacific" and "Carousel." These are kind of interesting, somewhat like watching two Broadway stars stretching themselves in scene class. (It's hard to say what someone unfamiliar with these Rodgers and Hammerstein classics would make of these snippets-with-song, but it's unlikely that someone unfamiliar with "South Pacific" and "Carousel" would wander into "An Evening With Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin.") Given this exercise, one doesn't look forward to seeing LuPone's Nellie Forbush or Patinkin's Billy Bigelow, although Patinkin has the makings of an effective Emile de Becque in "South Pacific."
The pair joined together for a personal appearance 10 years ago and worked it into an act that they have been touring between gigs ever since. Hence the simple setup: a black stage with Steinway and a few chairs, a long rectangular scrim for lighting effects and 28 ghost lights of varying sizes and colors for decoration. No orchestra, understandably in that they often play one-nighters. This is not a detriment, as pianist Paul Ford and bassist John Beal, two of today's finest theater musicians, are sitting there in Mandy's living room. Or stage right, rather.
New Yorkers have in the past weeks seen concerts not only from Hugh Jackman at the Broadhurst, but Audra McDonald and Cheyenne Jackson on separate dates at Carnegie Hall. Many patrons are still talking about these evenings and would go back in a shot for a repeat viewing. LuPone and Patinkin are in the same rarefied class of theater stars, but their present vehicle is merely likably friendly.
Over the years, both have sometimes had well-publicized battles with their collaborators. Here, together, they are engaged in a love fest and are nothing if not supremely comfortable. So we get LuPone and Patinkin without their edge, which may or may not be a good thing.