Review: MANDY PATINKIN: BEING ALIVE at Proctors Theatre

Playing through February 18th in cities across the northeast and Florida.

By: Feb. 03, 2023
Review: MANDY PATINKIN: BEING ALIVE at Proctors Theatre

From the moment Mandy Patinkin stepped on stage, it was clear that this show was going to be something incredibly special. Met with thunderous entrance applause, Patinkin took a moment to absorb the audience response before promptly turning the applause around and clapping for us, the patrons who were simply excited to be there. He made sure to acknowledge his pianist, the incredible Adam Ben-David, before the two launched into their first number. Patinkin immediately received the audience with such grace and on such a personal level, that one couldn't help but feel welcomed into the space.

This is very much a no-frills concert, the stage bare except for a grand piano and a chair that occasionally changes location as Patinkin alternates between seated and standing. Over the course of the evening (which runs about 100 minutes, no intermission), he meanders through a broad range of composers and musical styles, stretching from musical theatre classics and jazz standards all the way to 1980s pop and a song popularized by Kermit the Frog. These are also interspersed with familiar American tunes sung in Yiddish.

At 71 years old, Patinkin is still a formidable performer with a voice that has aged alongside him. Gone are the days of his soaring tenor, replaced by a rich operatic baritone that lends itself wonderfully to the songs he chose. Highlights included Rodgers and Hammerstein's Soliloquy, a "silent movie medley" (featuring Chasing Rainbows and Jerry Herman's Movies Were Movies) that showcased his physical comedy chops, a high-octane performance of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, and a truly moving spoken-word rendition of I Wish I Had Pictures, a 2017 song by The Magnetic Fields.

Review: MANDY PATINKIN: BEING ALIVE at Proctors Theatre

The most remarkable thing about this show, however, is the way Patinkin makes his audience feel as though they're in on something personal and intimate. Between songs, he shares personal stories and anecdotes about his upbringing in Judaism and in the theatre, but even better are the times when he goes off-script and tells stories that come to him in the moment (one even the pianist admitted to not hearing before). Or when he forgets the words to one number, drops the f-bomb, and promises the end is beautiful. At one point, he even forced everyone onto their feet to take part in a Yiddish rendition of the Hokey Pokey. These moments bring the audience together, as it becomes clear that this is a truly unique concert experience.

As the show neared its end and Patinkin launched into his final number (Sondheim's Sorry, Grateful into Being Alive) a large insect began to buzz around his head, illuminated by the lights in such a way that made it impossible to focus on anything else. However, rather than swatting at this fly as it landed on his forehead, on his arm, on the back of his hand, he instead treated the creature with care, allowing it to sit undisturbed as he finished the triumphant final notes of his show. After leaving and coming back to take a bow (which he once again shared gracefully with Mr. Ben-David) he shared a final, impromptu story with us. He swore that after the death of his father, the family concluded that should he come back in another life, he would certainly come back as a house fly. In that moment, we all knew that Mr. Patinkin wasn't just a massive talent, but a real mensch as well.

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus