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Mandy Patinkin serves up a cast of characters


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You may know the musical theater Mandy Patinkin, who won a Tony as "Evita's" Che Guevara and originated the title role in "Sunday in the Park With George."

Or you may have made his acquaintance on the big screen as "The Princess Bride's" swashbuckling Inigo Montoya or from the edge of your favorite chair, watching "Homeland's" Saul Berenson try to keep the world safe from terrorism.

Mandy Patinkin with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

Featuring: The first half has the PSO led by assistant conductor Fawzi Haimor. Mandy Patinkin joins the orchestra in the second half, with veteran Broadway conductor Eric Stern.

Where: Heinz Hall, Downtown.

When: 8 p.m. Saturday.

Tickets: $35-$115; 412-392-4900 or pittsburghsymphony.org.

He comes to Pittsburgh Saturday in concert, a little bit of all of those characters and one thing more -- a guy who can't go too long without being on a stage and sharing the songs in his heart.

"If you're somebody who is born on the boards and you come from the theater, you're always missing that," said the singer-actor, who will perform during the second half of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra concert at Heinz Hall.

After wrapping the third season of "Homeland," he took some time off, then hit the road before he has to resume shooting season four in late May. His recent schedule had him traveling coast to coast and in theaters of all shapes and sizes, sometimes with just accompanist Paul Ford, other times with frequent collaborator Patti LuPone, still others with renowned American baritone Nathan Gunn. He arrives in Pittsburgh via stops in Texas and Florida.

Having had his fill of down time, Mr. Patinkin also has been working with New York performance artist Taylor Mac on a new project, "The Last Two People on Earth: An Apocalyptic Vaudeville." They are scheduled to take the show to American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass., in spring of next year. Tony winner Susan Stroman directs and choreographs the musical that follows Earth's final humans as they work their way through the history of music.

It's fitting that Mr. Patinkin plays a man who chooses to face the end with music.

He wouldn't be here it if he didn't love the travel and the feeling he gets in front of a live audience. He also enjoys the element of surprise from people who are first discovering his range of talents.

"People who know I sing sometimes have no idea I've ever been anywhere else. So it's great fun sharing with them some of the connect the dots of the business. I'm so grateful for it all, I can't tell you," Mr. Patinkin said.

The 61-year-old talked about a wide range of subjects in a recent phone interview, but one thing he would not say is what he'll be singing on Saturday, as he likes to reserve the right to change his mind. Just when he seemed ready to provide a hint of the program, he stopped himself. " I will tell you ... I don't want to tell you anything," he said, laughing. "It's an eclectic group of songs. It's not just show tunes."

Here's what he would say about his wide-ranging career.

Will this be some form of the "Dress Casual" shows you've been doing?

"Dress Casual" is just a name I've used over 20-some years for my relaxed concert version, which is always different every night, a potpourri-smorgasbord of anything and everything I've been working on.

You always seem to come back to the stage, whether it's a musical or the concerts you've been performing with Patti LuPone or your one-man shows. Is it a need to connect with the audience?

Absolutely. If you work with a director like ["The Princess Bride's"] Rob Reiner it's a joy, because he's a great audience. But sometimes you're just out there in a vacuum. ... Film and TV, it's a whole huge collaborative effort. You're not in control. When you are on stage, whether you are in a play or a musical or a concert, you have it in your hands and the audience has it in their hands, and we construct the evening together.

I see that you have been doing shows here and there with the great baritone Nathan Gunn. Will we see you on the road with him again?

That's one of my favorite evenings. He is such a gas to be up there with, and his voice is right from heaven. Singing with him is like having one of those waterfall showers land on you. ... You just want to sit there and you want it to bombard you. It's incredible. We're putting together an orchestra version down the road of the "Nathan-Mandy Show," as we call it, and we'll find ways to bring that to folks, too.

"Homeland" is such an intense show, and you've been known to play some intense characters. Is it hard to shed Saul Berenson after a season?

He's with me all the time, Saul Berenson. He looks like me and he sounds like me and he thinks like me sometimes. We have a lot in common, we have some differences. But he's very familiar and I long to visit him. I'm looking forward to that and the company of people.

Offered condolences for the loss of "Homeland" co-star James Rebhorn, who died two weeks ago, Mr. Patinkin added: And now we have another angel up in the sky looking over us.

Is there anything you can tell us about what to expect during Saturday's performance?

I'd like people to keep their expectations in the toilet. [He laughs.] I hope they have a lovely day and come to the concert hall and see where it takes them. My wife always says to me, when I talk about going out to sing or play a role ... "Mandy, you've done this work. Now forget about it and go out there and listen to the words, and see where they take you." I recommend that to the audience as well. Let's go out there together and listen to the words that these wonderful people have written and I get to be the mailman for, listen to the beautiful music played by the symphony, and let's see where it takes us.


Sharon Eberson: seberson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1960.

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