Review by Daz Gale
Shaftesbury Avenue gets a little bit of Broadway this week as the Tony and Emmy award-winner Mandy Patinkin returns to the West End for the first time in 14 years. Taking over the Lyric theatre for 8 performances only, it sees the star famous for his roles across TV, film and theatre appear as himself in an intimate performance. Would he be able to captivate an audience just as effectively this way?
If you aren’t familiar with Mandy Patinkin’s body of work, he is known for his extensive work on Broadway including Evita, for which he won a Tony award, and Sunday In The Park With George. On TV you may know him from series’ including Homeland and Chicago Hope and in movies Yentl and Dick Tracy. Truth be told, that isn’t scratching the surface as Mandy’s extensive career has seen him take on a large number of roles across stage and screen for nearly 50 years. It is the stage where he is most at home with regular “Mandy Patinkin In Concert” and “on Broadway” events taking place throughout the years.
Rather than a career retrospective show, Mandy has crafted a concert that plays to his own storytelling strengths taking in a versatile range of songs from Stephen Sondheim to Queen and everything inbetween. Having abandoned his previous show, this newly written one has no bells and whistles – just Mandy, a pianist and a couple of simple and surprising props. Early musical highlights of the evening included a silent movie medley as Mandy effortlessly merges various numbers in his own inimitable style.
The evening consisted of classic numbers that definitely gave a sense of nostalgia to the older generations in attendance with a heartwarming and comforting style that likened Mandy to an old friend to them all. Accompanied by Adam Ben-David at the piano, this unassuming, pleasant, easy-listening show was the musical equivalent of a warm hug. Mandy’s unique way of performing songs complete with his own brand of sound effects and bursting into acting midway through a number gave him his own unique style which elevated the storytelling aspect of the songs,
Storytelling is the key word for a Mandy Patinkin concert as he is an expert at that craft. While his ability to convey stories through song was enjoyable to watch, it was the moments where he sat down and told us one of his tales without the accompaniment of music that proved to be even more captivating. With a self-deprecating charm, it was hard not to fall in love with Mandy as he recounted tales from his youth including an overshare from his birth, his bar mitzvah and how he came to fall in love with theatre. It was his stories of meeting Angela Lansbury and Stephen Sondheim that truly penetrated the heart, however, as the warm way he recalled his time with the two much missed legends of musical theatre reminded us all of the beauty and fragility of life.
Mandy’s humour was a joy to witness, particularly as he poked fun at his seemingly lack of preparation as he lost his place in the show or stumbled through with lines such as “Clearly I do not pay for a writer” and describing the show as “choreographed within an inch of its life”. As he studied the setlist and declared “I don’t think we’ve done this one yet”, it was very easy to forget you were watching an expert of his craft, such is the refreshingly casual way he invited the audience in with him. Who else would openly declare on a West End stage “I wish it was nap time right now”?
It isn’t hard to see why Mandy Patinkin is such a well-regarded and well-loved member of the Broadway community. A phenomenal storyteller and immediately loveable character, the warmth he exudes on stage is infectious to behold. Watching the reaction he provoked in the enraptured audience around the theatre shows the fantastic way he manages to connect with people and make them feel something. This timeless show was special to witness, leaving me with a sense of joy that is a true testament to the power of theatre.
Mandy Patinkin Live In Concert plays at the Lyric theatre until 19th November. Tickets from https://nimaxtheatres.com/shows/mandy-patinkin
Photos by Joan Marcus