An onstage reunion of Evita co-stars and Tony winners Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin is always cause for celebration. The opening night June 23rd of An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles certainly didn't disappoint.
From the moment they stormed out onto the elegantly ghost light-strewn set to the tune of Stephen Sondheim's "Another Hundred People" from Company, both performers held the audience tightly in their grasp. The two-hour set featured a liberal helping of Sondheim, as well as the best of Rodgers & Hammerstein. The R & H selections included medleys from South Pacific and Carousel, and the songs were interspersed with dialogue from these classic musicals that showcased Patinkin's and LuPone's acting as well as singing abilities.
Patinkin — who also directed the production, with a choreography assist from Ann Reinking — has often been teased for his more histrionic flourishes. While he didn't disappoint his critics in this regard, especially during the Vaudevillian "God-Why-Don't-You-Love-Me Blues" from Follies, Patinkin utilized lovely restraint with his renditions of Little Shop of Horrors' "Somewhere That's Green" and "The Hills of Tomorrow" from Merrily We Roll Along. He also displayed surprisingly operatic vocal chops as Billy Bigelow during the Carousel vignettes.
I had not seen LuPone perform live before, outside of Tony Awards telecasts. I was immediately impressed not only by her interpretations but by her ability to connect intimately with the audience. She brought the house down with Company's rapid-fire "Getting Married Today," despite dropping a few words at one point and seemingly losing her breath at another. LuPone seemed disarmingly moved by the songs from Carousel and had to wipe away tears several times. And of course she reprised her signatures, "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" and "Everything's Coming Up Roses," to tremendous effect.
The song selections were top-notch, with John Beal and the acclaimed Paul Ford providing superb support on bass and piano, respectively. An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin provides a midsummer night's dream to show tune-loving queens everywhere. But you'd better hurry: it's only playing in LA through June 29.
Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.