If a musical theatre lover were to create a bucket list, it would be a very safe bet to assume that seeing Patti LuPone or Mandy Patinkin perform live would be on the list. Both of them are Tony-award winners and legends of the stage and screen, with numerous credits to their names, so the opportunity to see LuPone and Patinkin individually on stage is enough to send shockwaves of excitement through any artistic community. To see them perform together, though, is tantamount in the theatrical community to the winning of the powerball lottery or finding the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. And if a person were lucky enough to see them perform together at a venue like the Eisenhower theatre in the Kennedy Center, and if it were not only every bit as good as you imagined, but even better (if that were possible), it would be a very safe bet that the bucket list would then have be retired completely, as the chance to see anything like it ever again is as rare as Haley’s comet.
Fortunately for the DC community, the above hypothetical situation is a current reality, and an amazing one at that. An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin, directed by Patinkin himself with choreography by yet another Tony-award winner, Ann Reinking, and musical direction by Paul Ford, is in town for eight performances only and is worth cancelling all other plans this weekend in order to see this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
More than just an evening of seeing and hearing two of Broadway’s most iconic and beloved performers belting out showtunes, An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin is an intimate look into a thirty-five year old friendship that began when both starred in the original Broadway production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita. Not only do they sing selections from that show (and many others), but Patinkin and LuPone, arms enveloped around one another in a warm hug, share the story of how, through that production, their friendship developed and has continued for more than three decades.
For me, this was my favorite part of the entire show. To see such chemistry and genuine support of one another on stage, and to see them play off of one another, and really enjoy themselves on stage was a real treat. I could tell they sincerely love what they do and wanted to be nowhere else but on that stage, doing just what they were doing, which was inspiring. During the musical numbers, which were loosely grouped based on categorical similarities into a series of small vignettes, LuPone and Patinkin would not only play around with one another as the songs dictated, but behaved more as two talented best friends would, who just happened to get together on a nearly bare stage and were having a bona fide good time. It frequently felt like we, the audience, were getting a public peek into their private friendship and it was wonderful. Through a series of small touches, adoring looks, warm laughter, and finite musical chemistry, LuPone and Patinkin proved that friendship is more magical than phenomenal talent. To perform for more than 1,100 people and yet create a show that felt more like a one-on-one show in your private living room was incredible and their intimacy with each other translated to an intimacy with the audience that was very touching.
Although most of the show was singing, the small bits of dialogue and the short scenes they interjected to tie the musical numbers together were powerful because they were simple and sincere. There was no over-acting, no self-indulgence and no ego. For two people who have become so iconic and well-respected and who are such decorated veterans of the stage and screen to perform a show without ego or indulgence was impressive. LuPone’s voice is every bit as beautiful and powerful as it has always been and Patinkin’s voice sounded even better in person than on recordings and screen.
Perhaps, as with fine wine, musical theatre icons continue to get better with age. Or perhaps a chance to perform with one of your oldest and dearest friends on one of the greatest stages in the country is a guaranteed success. Regardless, An Evening with Pattie LuPone and Mandy Patinkin is one evening that gets checked off my bucket list, which I may just have to framed and hung on the wall next to the playbill to remind myself that it was not just an illusion, but an incredible reality.
An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin performs through February 23rd, 2014 at the Kennedy Center‘s Eisenhower Theater, located at 2700 F Street NW, Washington DC 20566. Tickets start at $95. For more information, call 202-467-4600.