An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin

There’s something wonderfully grand about watching two musical theatre titans sing some of the great, more traditional songs in the musical theatre canon. And that’s exactly what An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin is.

For two hours, LuPone and Inigo Montoya Patinkin sing through the American songbook (heavy on the Rodgers & Hammerstein and Sondheim) with expert precision. (They are accompanied by musical director and pianist Paul Ford and bassist John Beal.) The songs are purposefully arranged to create a loose through-line, with a sliver of dialogue from certain shows interpolated here and there. (The one bit of original “dialogue” comes in the second act when LuPone and Patinkin (mostly Patinkin) recount the story of how they met and came to work on Evita, which was the breakout show for both actors; LuPone played Eva and Patinkin was Che.)

The two Tony winners make their way through selections from South Pacific, Company, Merrily We Roll Along and Carousel, as well as singular sensations from other shows (but not A Chorus Line, though that show does figure into this one).

My favorite moment was when LuPone sang “I’m Old Fashioned,” a Jerome Kern tune from You Were Never Lovelier. That’s a classic Fred Astaire-Rita Hayworth movie that tells a light and sweet love story. It, and, in particular, the dance number accompanying “I’m Old Fashioned,” were the inspiration for a beautiful Jerome Robbins ballet, aptly titled I’m Old Fashioned. The ballet ends with the company flooding the stage and dancing along with Astaire and Hayworth. And so whenever I hear the song, that beautiful moment comes to mind. Hearing LuPone sing the song just added to the sweet association.

Throughout, the stars are stunningly lit by Eric Cornwell. Cornwell populates that stage with colored ghost lights. The lights, coupled with the musical theatre history being explored on stage, and on that stage in the Barrymore (one of the few theatres to keep its name through all the years) really make you feel like you’re communing with all the wonderful spirits who have inhabited that space and those songs. For musical theatre lovers and scholars, it’s a terrific feeling.

Moreover, Cornwell’s lights are often beautiful and soft, like candle lighting, and the cues are affectingly subtle so as to gently ease you from mood to mood. I especially liked his lighting design for “The Hills of Tomorrow,” from Merrily We Roll Along. Perfectly fitting the song’s mood, Cornwell rigs the lights so that it looks like we’re watching a photograph sing on stage. It’s a wonderfully touching moment.

But mostly, you’re spending an evening with these two legends so you can watch them do what they do. Which is sing. Very well. (They move around a bit, too. Another theatre luminary, Ann Reinking, serves as Dance Consultant.) Experiencing LuPone sing “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” (Gypsy) and “Getting Married Today,” (Company) and Patinkin fully rock “Oh What a Circus” (Evita) and “The God-Why-Don’t-You-Love-Me Blues” (Follies) is like watching Shakespeare the way it’s meant to be played.

This is a great fun evening (or afternoon, as was the case for me) sure to delight generations of musical theatre lovers. Bravo, Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin!

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