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White Christmas

An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin

The two Broadway stars haven't fully lost their mannerisms in this often exciting show.

By New York City
Mandy Patinkin and Patti LuPone
(© Joan Marcus)
Mandy Patinkin and Patti LuPone
(© Joan Marcus)
If An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin, now at Broadway's Ethel Barrymore Theatre, had to be summed up in four words, it might be: loved her, tolerated him.

Truth be told, neither of these indisputably accomplished performers -- who first teamed up professionally over 30 years ago in Evita -- are devoid of mannerisms while sashaying through their impressive careers, but LuPone's fast-and-loose phrasing of beloved show tunes is easier to accept than the 45-degree-angle-arms-imploring stance Patinkin often affects while floating that parallel-universe falsetto of his.

In fact, the pair is much more pleasurable when ignoring the tricks they've polished in their impressive years on stage and screen and simply play the lines and lyrics they're meant to be delivering, particularly in a first act seemingly constructed to follow a checkered love affair.

Much of the straight-forward thesping occurs during a segment where they present much of the bracing first-act veranda scene from South Pacific. Their acting skills also come to the fore just before the end of Act II, when they reprise the most beautiful musical comedy falling-in-love scene ever written, the Carousel sequence that has as its fulcrum "If I Loved You." Okay, Patinkin goes a bit grandiose on his "If I Loved You" pass-through and his baritone seems to get stuck in his mouth, but he remains effective.

Both lengthy excerpts are the astonishing work of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, and the pair is heftily represented here (along with the Hammerstein-Jerome Kern "I Have the Room Above Her"), along with a whopping 13 tunes from Stephen Sondheim. In the last several years, LuPone has made herself a notable Sondheim interpreter and, to remind the spectators, she reprises her showstopping "Everything's Coming Up Roses" (from Gypsy with music by Jule Styne).

Those waiting to learn whether LuPone and Patinkin get around to Evita will be relieved to know they do, but only after the audience does some waiting around as well. In the middle of the second half, LuPone does a remarkably controlled "Don't Cry for Me Argentina," getting across the mixture of confession and self-aggrandizement Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber attributed to Eva Peron, while Patinkin precedes the anthem with a bombastic but nevertheless powerful "Oh What a Circus."

The pair, accompanied by Paul Ford on piano and John Beal on bass, also get around to a handful of John Kander and Fred Ebb tunes, Frank Loesser's Oscar-winning "Baby, It's Cold Outside," Howard Ashman and Alan Menken's "Somewhere That's Green" and Murray Grand's "April in Fairbanks," for which Ann Reinking has the pair do a darlin' dance while occupying chairs with casters.


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