B’way veteran (and LuPone bestie) Patinkin teams up with his favorite diva for a homecoming to Texas, where they first launched their famed concert
Mandy Patinkin is used to keeping each foot in different worlds. He’s a Broadway star (and Tony winner) and popular singer on the concert stage, but his film and TV work has been entirely non-musical. (Heck, he appeared in Yentl, but only Barbra got to sing!) He’s a straight man who’s passionate for gay rights … perhaps because he’s besties with gay-icon diva Patti LuPone.
But perhaps there’s no better metaphor for his duality than what happened earlier this month: Patinkin was filming his Showtime series, Homeland, in Charlotte, N.C., but production went on hiatus when the Democratic National Convention came to town. So what did he do? A series of concerts and workshops … in Provo, Utah. But going from Ground Zero for Dems to the union’s most conservative (and pro-Romney!) state was just par for the course for Patinkin.
“It was a fascinating place to be,” he says via phone from his home in Upstate New York. “The community and the audiences were some of the most beautiful people. I had a wonderful experience. Their strict Mormon rules are not that different from an ultra orthodox Jewish community, which I am familiar with.”
As charming as the experience was, however, Patinkin still can’t wrap his brain around the anti-gay mindset of most fundamentalist religions.
“It is impossible for me to believe that, whatever the strict tenets [of your religion] are, that there are gay people [in it]. How do you control raging hormones in 13- to 30-year-olds? It’s a fact: People have all kinds of desires and needs different from yours.”
Patinkin is a man after a gay heart.
“I think all of us need to stand up for human rights everywhere for those who don’t have a voice,” he says. “My single proudest professional moment — ironically — is a prayer for peace between Israel and the Palestinians I performed [at a Broadway concert on the evening of Sept. 10, 2011 — just hours before the 9/11 attacks]. Look at the New York Times archives: The review of that [prayer] was documented on the same day as one of history’s greatest tragedies. [Some people] criticized me, but I say, I stand up for human rights for all humanity.”
Maybe he should have stayed in Charlotte: He could have given a speech, and maybe sung a song or two.
We’re not sure about the speeches, but the songs will definitely be available to North Texans this week, when Patinkin and LuPone return to Richardson for the gala 10th anniversary celebration of the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts. On Saturday, they’ll be performing the latest incarnation of their Broadway show An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin. But it’s really a homecoming.
“It’s basically the same show we did on Broadway [earlier this year], though it’s not the same one we did when we birthed it 10 years ago,” Patinkin says. “It all happened because of Eisemann.”
Patinkin remembers when his booker called him more than 10 years ago, asking if he wanted to do “an evening with” at the soon-to-open venue. LuPone, the booker suggested, had already agreed.
“I hate those evenings so I was gonna blow it off,” Patinkin admits. “But I saw her backstage at Noises Off and I said, ‘What if we could create an evening telling familiar songs but also about the journey of two souls? We could change it up and perform it for the rest of our lives.’” LuPone agreed, and since then, the two have toured extensively with their act.
The Mandy-Patti relationship goes back decades — even further than most people would assume, when the two co-starred in the original 1979 production of Evita on Broadway.
“It began when I was her usher the first year of the Acting Company,” Patinkin recalls. “Bill Hurt and I were in Group 5 and she was in Group 1 with David Ogden Stiers and others. I first saw her when I was an usher for her show. Then we did Evita together.
But it wasn’t until this request for Richardson [10 years ago] came up that we have a way for us to work together again. She really is my partner onstage. It’s like having another wife. She is heaven — thrilling, exciting and dangerous at the same time. I think we’re gonna have it, ‘til we die.”
With some tweaks, perhaps: This may be the last version of this concert people will get to see. Patinkin and his collaborator Paul Ford are “creating a new show for Patti and I to do,” which, like this one, Patinkin will direct — though he downplays that part of it.
“By ‘directing,’ I just say, ‘What do you wanna do, Patti?’ It’s that old cliché: If you cast it right, you don’t have to do anything,” he laughs.
Even though he doesn’t sing in Homeland, Patinkin keeps a place for music in his heart at all times.
“Music is my broccoli, my drug — though really, I’m lyric-driven more than music-driven. But I’m not the genius — I’m the mailman. Tom Waits, Yip Harburg, Irving Berlin, and who I consider the Shakespeare of our day, Stephen Sondheim — they turn darkness into light. I’m amazed I get to live in this world.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 14, 2012.