Over the past couple of years, I’ve developed what some might call a “deep appreciation” for Mandy Patinkin: star of “Homeland,” Tony-winning Broadway performer, all-around benevolent human and curator of a very fantastic beard. Some of my friends, family members and coworkers have expressed concern regarding my affections, pointing out that Mandy is several decades older than me, an incredibly famous person, a father and husband and generally just an irrational choice of celebrity crush. To them I say: You’re right.
Because of the countless obstacles that stand between us, I (and the Federal Courts, probably) recently decided that it was only appropriate that I admire Mandy from afar. Mostly, this means watching “Homeland” and missing important plot points while exclaiming, “Look at his beard!” loudly and often. (It’s really fun to watch “Homeland” with me.)
But this past Saturday, it meant actually glimpsing Mandy in person: I had tickets to “An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin,” a concert being held to benefit Over the Rainbow, a wonderful organization that provides housing and services for people with physical disabilities. (Add “quietly altruistic” to the above list of his qualities.) What follows is my completely unbiased, dispassionate review of said concert:
I arrive at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall (50 Arts Circle, Evanston) with my boyfriend, who is somehow still dating me despite this article and its preceding events. We enter the auditorium and sit in our seats. I attempt casual conversation and affect a pose that I imagine a rational person seeing a Mandy Patinkin show might affect — hands in lap, face not grinning maniacally.
The curtains open, and Mandy and Patti run onstage, both wearing head-to-toe black. The ensemble really underscores Mandy’s gravitas, and on the beard front, he is killing it, as usual. (Patti’s also looking great, but, by no fault of her own, she is not Mandy Patinkin.) The pair — who met while originating the roles of Evita and Che in the 1979 Broadway production of “Evita” — proceed to spend two glorious hours performing songs culled from musicals like “Company,” “Evening Primrose,” “South Pacific” and “Carousel,” interspersed with small scenes from each of these plays. Both get the chance to show off their impressive vocal ranges alongside their comic and dramatic chops.
Most of the songs Mandy and Patti sing have to do with romantic relationships, which means that throughout, they peck on the lips at least five times. Sometimes they just smooch for no discernible reason. Patti quickly loses my good will.
Midway through the show, they perform “April in Fairbanks” while sitting — and somehow, dancing — in swivel chairs. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Mandy Patinkin gleefully pirouette across the stage on a low-to-the-ground office chair. I turn to my boyfriend and inform him that this is the most delightful thing I’ve ever witnessed. As he does many times that evening, he nods and smiles in a way that implies I am completely insane.
Near the end of the night, Mandy begins reciting a graduation speech from “Carousel,” but forgets his lines halfway through. “My brain!” he jokes. “Does anyone have a copy of the speech?” He is completely calm and good-natured, because of course he is. Patti pats his hand knowingly and laughs. Dammit, Patti.
After a few seconds, a stagehand runs out and brings Mandy the speech. “Does anyone have reading glasses?” Mandy asks the audience. They’re uproarious, and a man from the front row hands Mandy his glasses. Mandy proceeds with the speech as if nothing has happened, then hands the glasses back as soon as he’s finished. (Add “cool under fire,” “returns things/moral” and “would definitely survive a zombie apocalypse because of these characteristics” to the above list of qualities.) He launches into another duet with Patti; this time they hold hands. I try to stay strong.
Mandy and Patti finish the concert with a snappy performance of “Coffee in a Cardboard Cup” from “70, Girls, 70,” but not before each of them sings a solo from “Evita.” I can barely contain myself; as a young child, I was so obsessed with “Evita” that I forced my parents to videotape my friend and me singing the entire soundtrack clad in tights and sparkly one-piece bathing suits. Begrudgingly, I admit that Patti does a better job at finding the emotional truth in “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” than we did. And as we exit the theater, Mandy’s vibrato forever etched into our hearts, I decide that I will forgive Patti — because that’s what Mandy would do.
For more information about Over the Rainbow Association, visit Otrassn.org.