“Someone to make me aware, of being alive”
The current tour of the renowned performer, Mandy Patinkin, takes its title from Stephen Sondheim’s “Being Alive” from the musical “Company” (a personal favorite of mine) and made a stop last week at Strathmore. Patinkin launched his career with a Tony Award-winning performance as Che in “Evita,” and he hasn’t quit since. His numerous credits include the films “The Princess Bride and “Yentl,” Broadway’s “Sunday in the Park with George,” and the TV crime show, “Criminal Minds,” to name a few. He is also deeply philanthropic and involved in social activism.
…a night of song and story that evoked the nostalgia of childhood, the tumultuous nature of adolescence and parenthood, and the joy and grief of our shared humanity…original, heartfelt, fun, full of talent and honesty, and a true delight.
The idea of feeling life became the motif of the evening, a night of song and story that evoked the nostalgia of childhood, the tumultuous nature of adolescence and parenthood, and the joy and grief of our shared humanity. This is Mandy Patinkin, titan of theatre, film, and song, reminding us to love and have fun.
On advice from his son Gideon, Patinkin read the set list at the end of the night, rather than throughout, so I missed the opportunity to jot them all down, but it allowed for Patinkin and his accompanist and music director, Adam Ben David, to flow seamlessly through each song. Rather than a concert, it felt as if the duo had devised their own opera, pausing only for anecdotal stories of Patinkin’s life growing up on the south side of Chicago. One in particular stuck out to me due to its similarity to my experience as I pursue a career in the arts. As his parents considered the possibility of sending him to art school, a prominent member of his synagogue wrote a long and impassioned letter to them detailing what a terrible choice in parenting they were making, letting him ruin his life this way. I think I can speak for the whole audience and beyond we are glad they didn’t listen, and his advice to the parents and grandparents in the room “let your kids do what they want.”
Indeed, Patinkin filled the night’s performance. Not just the illustrious vocals, but each song had a character attached (sometimes even two at once, coming from one source) who fought, loved, laughed, and imbued the words of the song with new meaning. An oversized newspaper, megaphone, and ukulele were amongst the sparingly well used props. A grand piano, a chair, and a single ghost light (the light that is left on in a dark theater to ward off spirits) adorned the stage as set. The lighting, designed by Nathan W. Scheuer, complimented the emotional tenor of each movement, and added dramatic flare when called for. Sound design by Daniel J. Gerhard supplemented Adam Ben David’s playing to reinforce the already sharp comedic offerings from Patinkin.
Highlights for me from the evening were numerous. Classic songs like “Tisket, Tasket” or “Easy Street” highlighted Patinkin’s bluesy chops. Nostalgic hearts met misty eyes for “It’s Not Easy, Being Green.” Others, like “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” or even the “Hokey Pokey,” were revived into Yiddish, paying homage to the artist’s cultural heritage as a Jewish American. Most, if not all, of the evening’s performances related in some way to Judaism, whether it be the artist of origin’s faith, score subject material, or a linguistic reinterpretation. A true favorite was a rousing rendition of the famous Queen song, “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
The concert felt like a love letter to the performing arts, which I deduce is intentional. In another recollection, Patinkin recalled the first play he was in as a high school freshman—at the very community center where he went to nursery school. During a moment of “table work” the director asked the cast what they thought the play was about. They gave their answers, which the director accepted, but made an additional offering. He thought that the play meant “if you love someone, tell them.” Through this performance, Patinkin is clearly showing the adoration much due to our fickle mistress—the theatre. The performance was original, heartfelt, fun, full of talent and honesty, and a true delight.
Running time: Approximately one hour and 45 minutes without an intermission.
“Mandy Patinkin in Concert: Being Alive” was performed on January 28, 2023 at The Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, MD 20852. The concert is touring the East Coast until February 18, 2023. More information about the tour can be found on the artist’s website. For more information and tickets for upcoming events at Strathmore, go online.