Where: Crouse-Hinds Theater, 411 Montgomery St., Syracuse, NY
When: May 6-8, 2014
Reviewed by Nick Reichert
There was a string of ghosts and spirits dancing through Crouse-Hinds Theater Tuesday night.
Now these weren’t the spectral ghouls or ghastly phantoms that inhabit B-movie horror films and the bevy of basic cable ghost hunting shows. These spirits were the charged essence of musical theater giants of old. Colossus composers such as Sondheim, Rodgers, Hammerstein, Kern, Styne, Kander, Ebb, Rice and Webber possessed the stage inside the Oncenter. Ghost lights, an all too different form of spirit, were scattered across the stage. These towers of starry light were seemingly powered by the potent crystallized energy of classic Broadway songs.
Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin, lifelong friends and Broadway performing pillars, served as the mediums for the tenured songs and musical numbers. Stocked with history, emotion and the pedigree of dozens of performers past, An Evening with Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin was an intimate spiritual event.
Though in front of a sold out audience, Lupone and Patinkin traipsed, smiled, reveled and sang as if they were in one of their living room. The fused energy between the two veteran performers powered the gallery of ghost lights behind and beside them on stage, and it appeared as if not only the duo but a sea of Broadway memories and individuals were onstage alongside them.
Conceived by Patinkin and frequent collaborator and Sondheim pianist Paul Ford, the concert is a constellation of songs that don’t really connect. Comprised of two “acts,” Lupone and Patinkin perform songs that are seemingly disparate but either through shared themes or musical motifs enable the songs to connect as if they were all originally a part of the same show. There are four mini suites of songs that serve as the nucleus of the concert. South Pacific, Merrily We Roll Along, Evita (which LuPone and Patikin first met and starred in the original Broadway production) and Carousel each serve as a springboard for the loose narrative of the show.
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific immediately immerses the theater into the cheery romantic nature of musical theatre and presents the duo’s exuberant chemistry as performers and friends. Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along (a show that focuses on the turbulent relationship of friends in the musical theater business) allowed LuPone and Patinkin to flex their considerable Sondheim muscles while opening an avenue for the two to talk about their own relationship.
Packed with show tune treasures, the show left little time for the two to open up and talk and interact with audience (Except for a glorious spit take. The right front row prepare to get wet). But when the two stood downstage and shared the story of how they first met during rehearsal’s for Andrew Lloyd Weber’s seminal Evita, the concert hall shrank into an intimate room. It felt like one was among old friends.
Closing with a suite from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel appeared to be an odd choice. LuPone and Patinkin’s iconic numbers and obvious showstoppers (“Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” “Oh What A Circus,” and “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina”) appeared earlier in program. But after wrapping up the set of five songs, the spirit of the evening was encapsulated with the emphatic line, “As long as there is one person on Earth who remembers you - it isn’t over.”
Thanks to the brilliant careers, friendship and generosity of LuPone and Patinkin, the people of Syracuse will never forget the featured legendary composers or their songs, melodies and memories. The night was a purely holy occasion, a séance of the soul.And when the duo received their much deserved standing ovation, Patinkin subdued the crowd with a jovial, “the congregation may be seated,” as the two launched into an encore with Irving Berlin’s “You’re Just in Love.”
And that was perhaps the greatest gift of the concert. Agreed, it was musical theater heaven. But, furthermore, it was a tent revival of the human experience enveloped in compassion, love and kindness all wrapped in the decades long friendship of LuPone and Patinkin.
With friends like that, one scarce needs anything else.