Alternately Delightful and Disappointing – Mandy Patinkin at the Chicago Theatre (January 23, 2020)

It might be that you are a fan of Mandy Patinkin’s from “Homeland” or “The Princess Bride,” but chances are that if you’re buying tickets to see him in concert, you’re more concerned with his Broadway credits. But Patinkin is more than Georges Seurat, Ché and Archibald Craven. So if you were just hoping to hear his show tunes, the show will alternately delight and disappoint.

 

The show confuses, particularly with “From The Air,” a spoken word piece from Laurie Anderson, an avant-garde performance artist. The lights dim and Patinkin sits and delivers this piece that makes you wonder if you are at a bad college performance that you forgot to get high for. “A Few Words in Defense of Our Country” is another low light.

 

 

Also bizarre is “Refugees/Song of the Titanic.” Patinkin sings beautifully in Yiddish against a backdrop of videos and photos of refugees, including footage of those who have drowned. After the song, Patinkin sings two Sondheim songs from “Company” and then the show is over. The effect is jarring.

 

 

You have witnessed something incredibly painful and are left with no context. Patinkin works with the International Rescue Committee (https://www.rescue.org/mandy-patinkin) to “bring global attention to the ongoing refugee crisis.” But he shares nothing of his work. There is no intro nor lead-out. And following it up with “Sorry/Grateful” and “Being Alive”? Not the right choice.

 

 

This aside, he is still Mandy Patinkin. Hearing him sing “Sunday” is alone worth the price of the ticket and “Being Alive,” though oddly placed, was magnificent. And though the song choices of “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Over the Rainbow” are hokey, it’s still a joy to hear him sing them.

 

But still, you’ll leave the theater wondering. . . what the hell did I just see?

 

Edward Boyle

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