An Evening with Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin | 04.02.09

patti_mandy-08021_bl_12c_10_a.jpgThe performers created a series of mini-dramas by stringing together songs and dialogue from a number of American musicals.






Fabulous Fox Theater, St. Louis

There were many revelations during the two hours of "An Evening with Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin" performed at the Fox Theatre on April 2. The major one was simply Lupone. Having not seen her perform before, I was blown away by her ability to inhabit the characters she portrays and to switch moods on a dime. Another is that it is indeed possible to mike singers in the Fox so that they can not only be heard, but also understood: I don’t know how this miracle was achieved, but it was a welcome change from many shows I have heard at this venue. Probably joint credit should go to the sound design by Daniel J. Gerhard and the singers’ impeccable diction (the more so since they performed several patter songs in unison, including the opener "Another Hundred People" by Stephen Sondheim). A third was how simple yet effective lighting can replace a stage set: Eric Cornwell’s designs did everything necessary to signal changes in location and shifts in mood, while the main structures on stage were a number of colored ghost lights used to great effectiveness.

The "Evening," which was conceived by Patinkin and Paul Ford and directed by Patinkin, was not pure cabaret. Rather, the performers created a series of mini-dramas by stringing together songs and dialogue from a number of American musicals, an approach which makes perfect sense because musicals are part of our cultural heritage and their songs can be understood both within and outside the context of their original show. The most inspired arrangement of the evening was sandwiching "Getting Married Today" and "Loving You" (both by Stephen Sondheim, from Company and Passion respectively), between "Some Enchanted Evening" and "A Cockeyed Optimist" from South Pacific (Rodgers and Hammerstein). A close second was the pairing of the well-known "April in Paris" (Vernon Duke & E.Y. Harburg) with the novelty tune "April in Fairbanks" from New Faces of 1956 (Murray Grand).

The favored lyricists/composers of the evening were Sondheim and Rodgers & Hammerstein: substantial selections from Merrily We Roll Along, South Pacific, and Carousel were presented, along with songs from Company, Evening Primrose, and Into the Woods (Sondheim) and an assortment by other composers including Frank Loesser ("Baby it’s Cold Outside"), Jerome Kern (I’m Old Fashioned," "I Won’t Dance," and "I Have the Room Above Her"), John Kander and Fred Ebb ("A Quiet Thing" and "Coffee in a Cardboard Cup") and Irving Berlin ("You’re Just in Love").

Those hoping for the stars to perform their greatest hits were not disappointed: Lupone closed the first half with "Don’t Cry for me Argentina" from Evita (Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice) and also performed "Some People" from Gypsy (Jule Styne & Stephen Sondheim), while Patinkin cut up the stage in "The God-why-Don’t-You-Love-Me Blues" from Follies (Stephen Sondheim).

Choreography by Ann Reinking was effective without drawing the spotlight away from the songs, and included what is a first in my experience: a dance performed on rolling office chairs. On-stage accompaniment was provided by Paul Ford on piano and John Beal on bass. All in all, the evening was a superlative display of professionalism and a splendid new look at some old favorites from the American musical repertory. | Sarah Boslaugh

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