Who's that man?
by James Leonard
Who is Mandy Patinkin? The answer depends on whom you talk to.
For those who watch television, he's Jeffrey Geiger in Chicago Hope and Jason Gideon in Criminal Minds. For those who go to the movies, he's Iñigo Montoya in Rob Reiner's The Princess Bride and 88 Keys in Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy. For those who attend the theater, he's Ché in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Evita and George (Georges Seurat) in Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George.
But whoever and whatever else he is, Patinkin is a singer, and at the Power Center on Saturday, June 28, what Patinkin will be doing is singing. Specifically, he'll be singing songs by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, and other masters of the Great American Songbook. More specific than that it's hard to get, since Patinkin and his booking agent and his press contact aren't talking.
Some recent Patinkin shows, however, have featured Yip Harburg's "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime," Harry Carroll's "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows," and Johnny Burke's "Pennies from Heaven." Others have featured Sondheim's "Being Alive" from Company, "Too Many Mornings" from Follies, a medley from Sweeney Todd, and "Finishing the Hat" from Sunday in the Park with George. But no recent shows have featured songs from Evita, so Lloyd Webber fans are urged not to hold their breath waiting for "High Flying, Adored."
As for how Patinkin will sing: while those who've heard him know, those who haven't deserve a few words of explanation. Patinkin is a tenor, a high, pure, powerful tenor, though he can switch to a full-throated high baritone when the material requires it. Patinkin is also something of a crooner, with a tendency to slip smoothly from pitch to pitch when he's putting over a big tune.
But more than a tenor or a crooner, Patinkin is a singing actor. When he sings a line, every word and syllable is clearly articulated, but more important,
every word and syllable means something. In his recordings, there's the wonder of being in love in "Too Many Mornings," the wonder of being inspired in "Finishing the Hat," and the wonder of simply being in "Being Alive."
One further word of warning for Patinkin fans: he's been hired to play Prospero in the Classic Stage Company's Off-Broadway presentation of Shakespeare's The Tempest in September, and according to recent reports, he's growing his hair and beard out for the part. So while those Patinkin fans hoping to see Jason Gideon or Georges Seurat may be disappointed, those hoping to see Ché or Iñigo Montoya may be pleased.
[Review published June 2008]