LuPone,Patinkin team up for a hearty show of musical gems
- Last Updated: 11:09 AM, November 22, 2011
- Posted: 11:18 PM, November 21, 2011
AN EVENING WITH PATTI LUPONE AND MANDY PATINKIN Ethel Barrymore Theatre, 243 W. 47th St.; 212-239-6200. Through Jan. 13.
You may have heard about the Australian star currently setting Broadway on fire. The heat that emanates from “An Evening With Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin,” three blocks away from Hugh Jackman’s theater, is more of the smoldering kind — but in its own way it’s just as intense.
The pair certainly isn’t going for razzmatazz. David Korins’ bare set consists of several ghost lights, creating an effect that’s subtle and evocative rather than flashy. Backed only by pianist/music director Paul Ford and bassist John Beal, LuPone and Patinkin skip the shows they’re famous for: “Anything Goes,” “Sunset Boulevard,” “Les Misérables” for her; “Sunday in the Park With George” for him.
And yet we’re not being short-changed, as the song balances obscure nuggets (Kander and Ebb’s “Coffee in a Cardboard Cup”) and classics (“Some Enchanted Evening,” “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”).
Those dead set on hearing the songs these two made their own won’t be entirely disappointed. LuPone does give us “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” from “Gypsy,” and the duo perform a number each from “Evita,” which marked their only joint Broadway appearance until now.
Midway through the second act, Patinkin — who also directed — delivers the evening’s only bit of banter by recalling his audition for that show, in April 1979 — without mentioning either “Evita” or composer Andrew Lloyd Webber by name.
Patinkin then jumps into an incendiary rendition of “Oh What a Circus,” which LuPone follows with a relatively restrained “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.” That song has been a staple of her concerts forever, and for good reason: She owns it.
Rather than merely stringing ditties along, the show follows a gracefully theatrical arc about the highs and lows of love. LuPone and Patinkin know exactly when to put on the turbo — as with “April in Fairbanks,” when they roll around the stage on office chairs — and when to apply the soft pedal. They’re playing the audience as much as the material.
The stars also breathe new life into songs we thought we knew — as when Patinkin sings “Somewhere That’s Green,” performed by a woman in “Little Shop of Horrors.”
And in one of two extended sequences dedicated to a particular musical — the other being “Carousel” — LuPone reimagines Nellie Forbush, turning the young heroine of “South Pacific” into an older, wiser woman who finds love at long last.
Throughout, LuPone and Patinkin have such an easy, comfortable rapport that it’s hard to believe they haven’t shared a show since “Evita.” It’s even harder not to fantasize about them one day sharing a bona fide musical.