In his own revue currently on Broadway, the charming Hugh Jackman sings a snippet of “I Won’t Dance,” backed by a full orchestra, dancing girls, and a slide show.
In An Evening With Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin, Broadway vets Patti and Mandy do the same song conversationally and intimately, sitting on wooden chairs, with only a two-piece orchestra and some ghostlights behind them.
Their evening strips classic musical theater down to the human element, allowing Patti and Mandy to dabble in a couple of their showstoppers (particularly in Act Two), but more often to engage in some lovely interacting by digging into the meat of the music, stripped of the traditional flash and eagerness to please.
In Act One, they perform a Sondheim/Rodgers & Hammerstein song cycle complete with some dialogue from the original shows that mirrors a romance (leading up to Patti’s terrifically funny “Getting Married Today”), then swinging back to one of the South Pacific songs.
It’s a very clever and sophisticated way to present show tunes — certainly better than just standing there and saying, “This next number …”
These two are not here to tell cute stories or deliver wacky punchlines.
Only once does Mandy speak to us as himself, remembering how he agreed to do Evita in 1979 when he found out Patti, who was in a show he had ushered for, was in it.
After praising her talent — and “tits” — he then scores with that show’s raging “Oh What a Circus,” and of course Patti follows that with a flawlessly acted “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” with arms raised high.
(On Friday night, an audience member’s cell phone went off at the climax, but she kept her cool and didn’t scream, “Who do you think you are?” even as Evita.)
There are occasionally clunky moments and a slightly too long Carousel segment, but the highs are intoxicating and you’re in the hands of great actor/singers who meld with sensitivity, humor, and the kind of radiant theatrical charisma that can’t be taught.
Still, young hopefuls are advised to see this show and try to learn it!