Saturday was a fireworks night in Pittsburgh, at PNC Park and at Heinz Hall. Sounds of the post-game blasts infiltrated the Downtown music venue and served up a curveball to Mandy Patinkin, who was setting off some vocal fireworks himself for an appreciative crowd.
"It Isn't Being Green"
"On The Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe"
"Mr. Arthur's Place"
"Somewhere Over the Rainbow"
"Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody"
"Anyone Can Whistle"
"Sunday in the Park With George" medley
"Rock Island"/"Ya Got Trouble"
"The Band Played On"/"Marie"/"Once Upon a Time"
The singer-actor from Broadway and Hollywood was nearing the end of an electric 90 minutes with a twofer from Stephen Sondheim's "Company," the song "Sorry/Grateful" leading into "Being Alive," when he was stopped for a few seconds by the noise from across the river that cut through his concentration and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's accompaniment.
"If this goes on, we may have to stay overtime," he said to enthusiastic cheers. With some support from Paul Ford, his longtime sidekick on piano, the performer shook off the interruption and hit the big finish.
The night was like that -- covering a lot of bases, taking time with details and producing more than a few wow moments. After Mr. Patinkin belted "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody" and held onto the final note for an eternity, some in the crowd stood and even he hunched over and said, "Wow."
He also made time for storytelling amid tenor-to-baritone-and-back gymnastics that seemed to start from the bottom of his sneakers and rise up through his beard -- the full-on look of his "Homeland" character, Saul Berenson -- and carry to the top of the great hall. When he wasn't in a crouch, an arm raised to the sky or over his heart, he bounced around and among the musicians and called a timeout to take a picture with viola player Jenny Gerhard, honoring a promise to her brother, sound engineer Dan.
Oh, and he sang some songs, a mix of Broadway, pop and the American Songbook, some from his stage career and some surprises. Although each song seemed to affect him on a personal level, he never forgot the musicians behind him, asking them to rise more than once. He stopped one song after a few notes, and before regrouping, said he was nervous to be in front of an orchestra when it is usually just him and Mr. Ford onstage.
Mr. Patinkin wore his passion on his sleeve throughout. Dressed all in black and sipping from a black mug and wiping his brow with a black towel, he began softly and warmly, channeling Kermit the Frog on "It Isn't Easy Being Green" and thanking songwriter Joe Raposo when he was done.
Before launching into the "Bohemian Rhapsody," which he dedicated to the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, Mr. Patinkin noted the PSO would be playing a Queen program in June. As prep work goes, this was a doozy.
The Chicago native later talked about his father, who had a crush on Angela Lansbury and as a bar mitzvah present took young Mandy to see her in "Mame," his first Broadway show. Years later, Mr. Patinkin told that story to Ms. Lansbury when he was starring in "Evita" (as Che, his Tony-winning role) and both attended a party given by director Hal Prince. That night, Ms. Lansbury introduced a late arrival as "Steve Sondheim," someone Mr. Patinkin was vaguely aware of but knew he liked a particular song by the writer. He asked "Steve" to play it, and Mr. Sondheim did.
The song was "Anyone Can Whistle," from Ms. Lansbury's first stage musical, which Mr. Patinkin shared in one of the night's more serene moments.
Springing from impish to dramatic, the singer also told how his first musical experience was as a teen in the role of Billy Bigelow in "Carousel." That was late in the program and led to a full-throttle rendition of "Soliloquy."
When it was time for a final bow, the vocalist asked first violinist Mark Huggins his name, shook his hand and called him out to accept the applause along with conductor Eric Stern and Mr. Ford.
Before Mr. Patinkin arrived onstage, the PSO and conductor Fawzi Haimor played three selections with Broadway and movie themes: the "West Side Story" overture, selections from "My Fair Lady" and a medley from "Pirates of the Caribbean."
During the singer's set, there were no references to his TV or film roles until the very last moment. He paused at the exit, indicated he had forgotten something, and strolled back to center stage. Mr. Patinkin took the en garde position and many in the audience joined in as he recited his memorable line from "The Princess Bride": My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die."
Then everyone headed to the exit, satisfied that the fireworks were done.
Sharon Eberson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1960. Twitter: SEberson_pg.
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