Mahaiwe 2012 Gala
An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin
October 14, 2012
Review by Seth Rogovoy
(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass.) – I’m not a great fan of Broadway show tunes or “the Great American Songbook,” but that’s apparently partly because so few performers render it like Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin did on Sunday night at the Mahaiwe Theatre, as the organization – the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center – celebrated its 10th anniversary with a memorable gala benefit concert.
In a 90-minute non-stop program, the duo performed songs they are known for or have become identified with through their years on Broadway, as well as old favorites of theirs. These included plenty of songs by Stephen Sondheim, as well as numbers by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Kander and Ebb, and the dreaded Andrew Lloyd Webber, who gets credit for writing the musical that initially brought LuPone and Patinkin together onstage, Evita, if for little else (fortunately, they only performed two obligatory numbers from the show, which in context with the Sondheim and the others, merely served to demonstrate how poorly composed the material is).
Rather than delivering classics like “Some Enchanted Evening” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone” cabaret-style, LuPone and Patinkin presented the two-dozen-odd numbers from a dozen different shows recontextualized, working with and through each other musically and thematically to create almost an entirely new show about, what else, love and marriage. They exhibited the great art of actor-singers, delivering the numbers in character, often with simply but evocative choreography courtesy of their friend, Ann Reinking, and with depth of personality and humor.
These vignettes retained the flavor of the original shows while striking out on their own, as well as giving LuPone and Patinkin the opportunity to exhibit what they themselves are best at. Theirs is a dying art. In an age of robotic, auto-tune perfection, these musical theater powerhouses are all-organic, boasting incredible craft but also tender humanity. In LuPone’s case, that means, instead of an overbearing, American Idol-style uninflected voice, you get an instrument with a slightly pinched, nasal whine that isn’t exactly pitch-perfect. In his case, you get a gruff, not-always-musical bass (albeit one with a wide range).
But you wouldn’t want it any other way. Theirs are like a well-worn guitar or violin, or a burnished brass instrument, full of personality and color. They don’t sound like anyone else and no one else will ever sound like them. And they sound so good together – they have an effortless rapport borne of decades of friendship and sympathy. They can dance, harmonize, and swing together, and it all works. They actually make you want to see South Pacific, Merrily We Roll Along, Follies and Carousel – if not Evita.
Theirs was a worthy tribute to the marvelous first decade of the new Mahaiwe, the Mahaiwe of its second century, that has and continues to boast some of the greatest performing talents in the world.