Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond


June 27, 2009

Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin
Photo: Brigitte Lacombe 2009

I’m not even going to get into what a week this has been, but suffice it to say that it’s about time to get back to (blogging) business. Los Angeles was visited by two of the great stars of the American stage this week. Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin arrived in their two person musical revue that’s on stage at the Ahmanson as the first show of the 09/10 season. Given there are only a week’s worth of shows, it has been very well attended and may have indirectly benefited from all the press LuPone has received this week for standing up to disrespectful audience members. There’s not much fuss in An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin. The two performers are accompanied by Paul Ford, who conceived the show with Patinkin, on piano and John Beal on bass. Throw in some dramatic lighting and arrange some of the best music written for the stage in the 20th century from Rodgers and Hammerstein and Stephen Sondheim and you’ve got a show. And with these performers that’s pretty much all you need.

There were extended medley segments from South Pacific, Carousel, and Merrily We Roll Along as well as big hits from LuPone including “Don’t Cry for me Argentina” and “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.” Excellent material to be sure, and here presented in hands that know what they’re doing on stage. It was a master class in performing theater songs. The acting alone was worth seeing even if neither had ended up singing a note. And in some ways, that might have been preferable since the vocal quality overall was not what it might have been 20 years ago. Patinkin sounded threadbare throughout. I won’t hazard a guess as to whether it’s a product of age or illness or whatever, but his singing was nearly non-existent. Still, he was riveting to watch with his prodigious other talents in a number like "The God-Why-Don't-You-Love-Me Blues" from Follies. LuPone is faring much better these days. Her voice has changed over the years to the point now where I think it sounds best in numbers where there’s a little belting involved. She excels in this Merman territory as evidenced by her triumphant Mama Rose recently in New York, and “Roses” here was a highlight. But more delicate numbers can come off flat and/or warbled like “In Buddy’s Eyes” from Follies. But make no mistake, Patinkin and LuPone generate plenty of emotional content in this evening including a witty pairing of “April in Paris” with Murray Grand’s “April in Fairbanks” that the two stars delivered in a dance routine while seated in rolling office chairs. The show is fun and an excellent chance to see part of what exactly makes these legends great. It’s at the Ahmanson through June 29th.


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