Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Mandy Patinkin

It was Mandyland Saturday night at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts as hundreds of fans, me included, nearly filled the large auditorium to hear Mandy Patinkin sing songs from Broadway and the American songbook for close to two hours -- with no intermission! Patinkin is a performer who holds nothing back.

Most of the songs he sang, accompanied by the marvelous Paul Ford on piano, I have on several of his recordings. I’ve been listening to them for many years, so it was nice to finally hear them live. I also listen often to his Broadway cast recordings of Evita and The Secret Garden and especially Sunday in the Park with George.

I was happy when he started with two songs from Sunday, “Children and Art” and "Sunday." He sang them with all the appropriate feeling and emotion they deserve. Then he sang a string of classics like “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” into which he inserted his characteristic shouting of a few verses. He did this for several songs in a row and I began to wonder if he was going to do it for every song. Luckily when he came to “Bring Him Home” from Les Miz he sang it with all the soulfulness it deserves and from then on the shouting was kept to a minimum the way it is on his recordings.

Even though the performance hall, on the campus of Brooklyn College, is huge, Patinkin made it seem intimate with his relaxed comments to the audience. He also gave us some good laughs, talking about all the “assimilated Jews” who wrote some of our best music, but never in Yiddish. Except the ones he said he had unearthed. He then sang “God Bless America,” “Maria” and others in Yiddish. The audience loved it -- and him. He returned the respect by offering such a long and rousing concert, stopping only to mop his face with a black towel and sip from his water bottle. It was great to be there.

Just in case the name Mandy Patinkin isn’t instantly recognizable to you as it is to all of us New York theatre folks, I’ll fill you in so you can look for him if he’s appearing in your neck of the woods. A Tony and Emmy Award winner, Patinkin has an extensive list of theatre credits that include Broadway, Off-Broadway and regional theater.  He won a Tony Award for his 1980 Broadway debut as Che in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita and was again nominated in 1984 for his starring role in the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Sunday in the Park With George.  He returned to Broadway in the Tony Award-winning musical The Secret Garden in 1991 and appeared as Marvin in Falsettos the following year.  His other stage credits include The Wild Party, The Winter’s Tale, Hamlet, The Shadow Box and Henry IV, Part I/.
If you’re a television watcher, which I’m not, you may know him as Dr. Jeffrey Geiger on the critically acclaimed CBS television series, “Chicago Hope,” a role that won him an Emmy Award in 1995.  He starred in the acclaimed Showtime Original Series “Dead Like Me” (2003 – 2004) and in the CBS drama “Criminal Minds,” which debuted in the fall of 2005.  His other television credits include the starring role of Quasimodo in a live action remake of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” a version of Arthur Miller’s Broken Glass, Showtime’s “Strange Justice,” and episodes of “Touched By An Angel” and “Boston Public.”  His numerous feature film credits include:  “The Princess Bride,” “Yentl,” “Ragtime,” and “Dick Tracy.”
His accompanist, Paul Ford, was the original pianist for the Broadway orchestras of Stephen Sondheim’s Passion, Into the Woods, Sunday in the Park with George and the Off-Broadway production of Assassins.  His other Broadway credits include Tom Sawyer, High Society, Steel Pier, The Rink, Rags, The Secret Garden and Falsettos.  In addition, Ford was the pianist for the acclaimed Follies concert at Lincoln Center and the Carnegie Hall concert performances of A Sondheim Tribute and Anyone Can Whistle.   

Patinkin and Ford are just two of the gifted performers who are part of this season at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts. For schedule information, visit BrooklynCenterOnline.org

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