Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mandy and Patti: Together Again for the Very First Time

I was so excited when a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to go to see Mandy Patinkin and Patti LuPone. A friend of a friend who didn't need the tickets had asked if she knew anyone who could use them. She had instantly thought of Courtney and I, but then started to have second thoughts because Mandi and Patti are not opera singers. . . um, Puh-shaw! These people are Broadway royalty. Evita, Sunday in the Park with George, Gypsy, The Baker's Wife, The Secret Garden, Les Miserables, Falsettos, Sweeny Todd. . . (ok, I had to look some of those up) but OMG! I was already thinking of spending actual money to see this concert, but decided against it because, well, have you looked outside? The sky is falling. Anyway, here were some tickets being offered to us for free. It's a sign.

So the next night, Courtney and I get all respectable lookin' and head down to Wilmington for the show. Our seats were way house right on the first balcony, but that was okay because the theater is not that large (1300 maybe). Piano and stringed bass are waiting stage right, and the stage has about twenty "ghost lights" (a lightbulb on a stand) strewn about. Lights go down. Musicians take their places and start into a pulsing vamp. . . and there they are sitting side by side singing "Another Hundred People" (Company).

I have to admit, it's a little surreal to be seeing in person people that you have seen on TV and heard on albums for most of your life. Surreal-good, not surreal-weird. The concert was set up very much like a classical recital (or even one long song cycle per half) in that there was not really any pause between songs. If there was any talking, it was the scene that surrounded the song that was to be sung. This made for very much a montage-y kind of feel, which normally annoys me, but in this case it seemed to be the most efficient way to get as many songs in as possible with their context. That, and you have some of the most wonderful performers around, so they make it work.

They had some extended sections of particular musicals which was great including the main love scene from South Pacific ("A Cockeyed Optimist", "Twin Soliloquies", "Some Enchanted Evening"), and selections from Evita (big surprise), Merrily We Roll Along, and Carousel. It was great to see some real actors do the South Pacific, and thinking "oh, that's what that scene is about" all the while sheepishly remembering my 19-year-old attempts at Emile de Becque. Carousel is probably my favorite musical of all time, so I was very pleased to see that programmed at all.

Other highlights included "Getting Married Today" (Company) with Patti LuPone spitting out some of the fastest and funniest patter I have ever heard live. Amazing. Mandy Patinkin taking over the room with a fierce "Franklin Shepard, Inc." (Merrily We Roll Along) and then moments later singing a touching and (yes, I'll say it) poignant "Somewhere That's Green" (Little Shop of Horrors).

So, for the most part I loved it. In fact, in almost every part I loved it. But I can't let my vocal snobbery lie. Patti was having some vocal issues. She was consistently flat in her middle chest voice. My guess is that she was tired and/or was dealing with her health. Two of her numbers listed in the program were not performed. And Mandy, well, Mandy has a voice technique that is unique to him. And honestly I'm glad for that, because I don't know that I would like it if there were a whole lot of Patinkin wannabes running around and going into falsetto every chance they could.

But hey, it was a wonderful show. A wonderful evening of theater and music, and has made several lasting memories for Courtney and me. What more could a theater-goer want?

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