Saturday, November 19, 2011

An Evening with Patti and Mandy: Car Wreck Extraordinaire

I have to admit as a teenager I was a big Mandy Patinkin fan.  The Secret Garden is still one of my favorite Broadway memories.  I was so much of a fan that my brother, still to this day, when making fun of my theater-going asks if I am going to see Mandy Patinkin.  My brother is a jerk but he is bald.  So I win.

I may be in the minority with this opinion, but I did not find much "winning" at this show.

Patti and Mandy have a song of set of an incredible 35 songs.  I found there were too many songs.  Maybe the number of songs would not have been so bad but they were thinly strung together for a very weak narrative through line.  In addition, they hit some of the songs in such a rapid fire fashion that they should not have even bothered.  They rush through "When" from Evening Primrose (which I happen to love) and mess about with the arrangement so much it sounded terrible.  They zip through "Baby It's Cold Outside" stripping it of all charm and appeal.   I would rather they focused on a smaller set of songs and made them sound good.

In my opinion the successful numbers are:

--Patti's version of  "Getting Married Today "(Though I think she takes a page out of Katie Finneran's book on this one (and honestly if you are going to steal this out of someone else's book that's a great place to steal from)). 

--The Whole Evita set.  I mean yes Mandy gets a little hammy here but it's like the least ham.  Or the spammiest of his hamminess.  And well don't you just want to hear Patti sing "Don't Cry for Me Argentina."  It's worth it.   The segment on Evita was nice because that was the only point where they addressed the audience.  And by they, I mean Mandy,.  He told his story about being called up to audition for Evita.  And then he said something about Patti's "tits."  Yeah.  Uhm.  Yeah.  I should say he complimented her tits then...and now.  But this little bit of personal history was nice (sans the "tits" reference) and it made me wonder why there was not more of it in the show.

--"Somewhere That's Green."  I thought Mandy managed to do this one as straight as he could muster and it came out darling.

But the car wreck was everything else.  They did some sort of dance/skating sequence on office desk chairs to "April in Fairbanks."  It was hilariously bad.  It was almost so bad it was good.  But it wasn't good.   As the lights came down on the end of the first Act, I turned to @mrtylermartins and said that this all looked like a talent show from a high school.  Not really what one should say about a Broadway concert by Broadway legends.

The whole show had a hokey, cheap feel to it.  It was like Patti and Mandy just showed up, rented a stage, grabbed a few musicians and threw together this show.  If it had had a true casual feel maybe this would have worked.  But this was not an Oak Room style intimate performance.   This was a Broadway stage.  And there was not casual banter.  There was just song after song after song with hardly a breath between them and hardly a moment for the audience to process.  Some might feel this was bang for their buck.  I found it to be sloppy, rushed and unsatisfying.

The worst bit for me was Mandy's performance of  "The God-Why-Don't-You-Love-Me Blues" from Follies.  Now I am no fan of this song and don't particular like the current version playing over at the Marquis.  But this was maybe the most over the top, muggy, hyper-stylized, grotesque thing I have ever seen on stage.  He barked.  WHAT WAS THAT!  I felt as if I was blinded by Medusa's snakes.  It was certainly not a faithful interpretation of the song in the context of Follies.  Rather than purge the bad memories of Compulsion I still have in my head of Mandy whispering sweet nothings into the ear of an Anne Frank puppet in his marital bed, I feel like this has compounded that nightmare and now I imagine after the weird puppet love scene he then breaks out into Buddy's Blues.  The horror.

I have spoken with some people who thought this was the best part of the show.  So...take this all with a huge grain of salt I guess.  Maybe Mandy has just jumped the shark for me personally.  It's sad.  For me, it's like a piece of my nerdy musical theater childhood has died.  And by died, I mean went down in a barking blaze of glory.

I didn't think Patti was as strong as she has been in other shows I have seen.  Maybe it was because I saw a preview and she was holding back a bit vocally.  Or it could be these are not the divalicious songs of her usual repertoire.  There was a lot of Patti playing the ingenue here. 

They ended the show with a series of songs from Carousel.  After that and Hugh Jackman's amazing rendition of Soliloquy, I really want someone to revive Carousel.

The guess that is the lesson I have learned this week.  I'm not a fan of concert shows and apparently am craving some old-fashioned shows.  If any producer is listening...Carousel.  Carousel.  Carousel. 

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