This past weekend I saw "An Evening with Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin" at Proctors Theater in Schenectady. I was overjoyed when I saw this program on the schedule and bought tickets months ago. Finally the day arrived! The weather cooperated and I wasn't even sick (almost everyone I work with had a stomach bug).
The first disappointment came when we found our seats. They were close to the stage (row H) and had a good view although they were off to the side. The problem was that they were narrower than the seats in the center section! By about three inches! My husband took the aisle seat (his reward for being dragged there) while I was squashed between him and the woman next to me, who apparently felt she didn't have to limit herself to just her seat, but could lean into my space as well.
The program contained the full song list, and I was happy to see a large dose of Rodgers and Hammerstein in the form of a South Pacific medley (great - my favorite!) and a Carousel medley (actually my least favorite R & H musical) tempered by a generous helping of Sondheim (which I like even less than Carousel). There were some other random songs, too, including two of my favorites, Frank Loesser's "Baby It's Cold Outside" and Irving Berlin's "You're Just in Love." I was sorry to see that "I'd be Surprisingly Good for You" from Evita was not on the list. Although this was not a Lupone/Patinkin duet in Evita, I had hoped they would sing it.
Then the show started and the disappointment continued. I wanted to love the show. Maybe my expectations were too high. Evita was 30 years ago, after all. Anyway, the set was simple and there was a pianist and a bass player. Patti and Mandy were dressed in simple black costumes (Patti in pants for the first set and then a dress). There was no introduction or any dialogue directed at the audience. In fact, it was really more of a play than a concert with all the songs connected.
The South Pacific medley was a bit disappointing. They actually performed an abbreviated scene with dialogue from the play and sang "A Cockeyed Optimist," "Twin Soliloquies," and "Some Enchanted Evening." The singing wasn't bad, but they definitely were not the best renditions I've heard of those songs. I think the thing I objected to most was the fact that the scene was played for laughs. Sure, there are some humorous elements there, but it's just not particularly funny. In fact, the whole show was played for laughs. And people laughed. Including the woman next to me who was braying like a donkey into my ear. It got so bad that I was eagerly anticipating the Carousel medley - there's no way to make that funny, and thankfully the braying subsided for a few minutes.
Patti sang a solo "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" before the intermission and "Everything's Coming Up Roses" after. She can still belt them out, but other songs didn't fare as well.
The "Baby It's Cold Outside" duet, which has clever lyrics, was sung so fast that it was impossible to hear it clearly. Although recording is prohibited at shows like this, I did find someone on YouTube that recorded a different performance. Here it is:
Courtesy of Squeegeebeckenheim on YouTube
Here's "You're Just in Love:"
Courtesy of Squeegeebeckenheim on YouTube
This performance is actually worse than I remember. I think I could sing it as badly as this.
The audience also contributed to the negative experience in other ways. Naturally there was the interminable rustling of candy wrappers after the intermission (Proctors allows food and drink in the theater). Also a woman in front of us began to shake violently at the start of every song. My first thought was a grand mal seizure, but no, she was just enjoying the music. Whatever happened to quietly tapping your toe? And then the guy next to me began complaining loudly at the intermission about how bad the performance was. First about how their voices were shot and then about Patti Lupone's enormous posterior. While I agreed with these statements, I wouldn't have voiced them in public during the show. But my husband just couldn't keep it to himself.
Sadly, I found myself wondering if it was worth attending this show. Was there any benefit to seeing it live? I had to conclude no. I would have enjoyed it more as an episode of "Great Performances" from the comfort of my living room. The only benefit was seeing it at all, and had a I seen the clips on YouTube first, I might have concluded it wasn't worth it at all, that it was better to just let Mandy and Patti live on as Che and Eva on my record where they still sound wonderful.