Dueling Reviews, Part II
I reviewed An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin for today's Philadelphia Inquirer, which normally wouldn't be so remarkable, except for three things:
1.) Inquirer critic Toby Zinman and I both managed to shoehorn the word "schmaltz" into reviews on the same day.
2.) Apparently, Mr. Patinkin is a fairly close cousin through marriage, which means relatives keep asking me to say hi to "Cousin Mandy," which I might, if he had any idea who I--or they--were.
3.) I reviewed Patinkin and LuPone when they performed together at Philly's Prince Music Theatre last season.
A few folks have asked about the difference between the two shows, but I can't seem to locate the printed version of that review in the Inquirer's online archives. So in the interest of giving the people what they want, here is a link to today's review, and below is the unedited version I turned in to my editor last season. But just FYI, one difference that didn't make it into print is the addition of a heck of a lot of vintage microphone stands dotting the stage, all wired and fitted with colored lightbulbs. Not sure about the purpose for this design adjustment, but its result was, unfortunately, a far more restrained version of their rolling-office-chair pas de deux.
Our weather finally has an autumn snap in the air, and there is hardly a better way to get cozy than to spend time with old friends. And we literally get "Old Friends," via Sondheim, and a host of other songs by Broadway's boldest-faced composers in the Prince's production of An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin. LuPone and Patinkin made their names (and garnered Tonys) as Eva and Che in Webber's original Broadway production of Evita, and they seem to have a true affection for one another. The pair radiates their warmth all the way to the theater's back rows, bringing a bit of Lincoln Center to Chestnut Street, as they tear through medley after lovesick medley. From South Pacific, to Merrily We Roll Along, Carousel and more, the duo stops only for a line or two of dialogue from the musicals and a brief intermission.
Directed by Patinkin, the performance is suffused with a sense of ease, but also of rebellion. LuPone once famously sued Andrew Lloyd Webber (and won), while Patinkin recently walked away from his day job on the television show Criminal Minds, citing "creative differences." And both still have an air of the scrappy independent about them. The show feels intimate, as though they simply decided together that they'd rather be doing nothing else, invited longtime Patinkin collaborator and pianist Paul Ford to come along, and grabbed bassist John Beal on their way out the door. There are no fancy sets or big dance numbers, only the singers, their songs, a pair of chairs and the musicians' unobtrusive accompaniment. Still, it seems a waste to have the great Ann Reinking as your choreographer and then to under-utilize her talents. There is a bit too much sitting while singing, perhaps a concession to the performers' age. But when they get moving, particularly during an April in Paris/April in Fairbanks medley, they channel the Fringe Fest and swing each other around the stage perched atop a pair of rolling office chairs, and we enjoy it as much as they seem to. There is little concession to age regarding the choice of tunes, however, with an abundance of ingenues dotting the song list, and both reprising their signature Evita roles (and LuPone's signature song, "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina") without a care for the intervening years. They may croon "Baby, It's Cold Outside," but inside the Prince, Patinkin and LuPone keep the house nice and comfy.
There you have it. Feel free to compare and contrast, and let me know if your reviews differ/agree. Also, I've been remiss about posting my recent reviews here, so if you've got a little extra time and any interest in a snapshot of Philly's early spring theater season, here's what I've reviewed in the last two weeks, and what I thought about it: Honor and the River at the Walnut Street Theatre's Studio 3; the national touring company of Cats at the Merriam Theatre; Arms and the Man at Hedgerow Theatre.