Great performances

In a million years I'll never forget the wild delicious flutter my heart made when Bernadette Peters emerged from the wings to meet Mandy Patinkin in the middle of the stage to sing this song (etc.). Her smile at 2:57! Oh these crazy kids, with their ecstatic harmonies and important hand gestures, it's almost too much to process.

the Mandy Patinkin Youtube rabbit hole — can't believe I missed this ("Mandy Patinkin doesn’t just play a Jew on Homeland, he's one in real life." — !!) — and Mandy Patinkin on the set ("One doesn't so much interview Mandy Patinkin as prompt him. A simple icebreaker about Saul's hirsute appeal leads to a swooping, six-minute soliloquy on 'the broken family of man.' ")

Mandy Patinkin: Celebrating Sondheim

Oh my stars, we haven't talked about Mandy Patinkin singing Sondheim, have we? Well! I'm sure some of you have been crying about that, and all I can say is: grow up! I've had a lot (foodwise) on my plate the last couple of weeks.

Anyway, it snowed like a million feet that Friday, and then the snow turned to ice and slush but I still clomped my way down to The Public, which is in the ridiculous neighborhood of NOHO. Please; why so stupid? Although it does remind me to inform you that I have christened my apartment "The Snuggery," in honor of its smallness, snuggliness, and Franklin D. Roosevelt's mother. Which is a whole other story. Now let's see, what was the point there? Whenever my head takes me off the track, I like to pretend it's all making sense by just starting over with a brand new paragraph or

[RETURN]

Sarah and I were planning to eat at a restaurant I have since forgotten the name of, because it was closed, so we had dinner at Colors instead and ended up sitting right next to Mandy Patinkin's wife, Kathryn Grody. It's a good thing I can see in the dark! We tried to keep our voices down while tossing out "love" and "adore" and "nonstalker" and "Mandy Patinkin" at every opportunity, and at the end were allowed to pay the bill, collect our coats, and leave, so I think she was fooled.

And if for some reason you are still reading, here, finally, is the part about Mandy Patinkin: HE WAS AWESOME. The theater was small and we were close and all of the profits went to The Public, and if you like Mandy Patinkin, or Sondheim, or—god help you—both, you would have been in for a real treat. He released this set list a couple of years ago as a live recording called—get this—"Mandy Patinkin Sings Sondheim," and it's a briskly moving little construct of 35 Sondheim songs that flow in and out of each other with very little talk. I was actually kind of sorry about this, because I also love to hear him talk. (Relax, haters.) And it's all tied together with a single piano played by his longtime accompanist Paul Ford. And oh, he sang "Johanna" and "Our Time" and "Waiting for the Girls Upstairs" and "Pleasant Little Kingdom" (I had to pinch Sarah when we got to that one) and "Not While I'm Around" and "All Things Bright and Beautiful" and "Finishing the Hat" (!!!) and "Sunday," and for a couple of hours there it was like sitting in a room with a fine, generous, funny friend who has only good stories to tell. And not only tell, but sing! And not only sing, but sing Sondheim! So, you can probably see where this is going. And I'm terribly sorry you missed it.

Mandy Patinkin @ CSC

Oh my goodness! So I step inside the theater and see Mandy Patinkin is already sitting on stage talking to Paul Ford, his pianist. The usher shows me to the front row (front row!) and I realize Mandy Patinkin isn’t talking to Paul Ford, he’s running through his lines—for Prospero, in The Tempest—as the audience members find their seats and continue to chat, although certainly nothing in my day so far has contained anything that’s more interesting than watching Mandy Patinkin rehearse for The Tempest. And I also realize this all sounds way too precious, and maybe you would have thought so even if you’d been there beside me, but please. I’m the kind of girl who eats that shit up.

Also, this conversation, with a woman a couple seats down from me:

“Mr. Patinkin!”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Can you say, ‘My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father, prepare to die.’?”

“Are you a rich lady?”

“No.”

“Then we can’t afford it.”

Or something to that effect.

Anyway, I sat right here, and Mandy Patinkin stood right up there, in a shorter version of his Georges Seurat beard which by now is almost all gray and actually makes him look a little like Stephen Sondheim, and he sang “Children and Art” to me, and “Sunday,” and “Franklin Shepard Inc.” and “Bring Him Home” (during which the lady next to me nearly died from excitement), and some Tom Waits and some John Lennon and yes, some Yiddish, and “Oklahoma” and “Over the Rainbow,” and then he sang this—the first minute of which is close to my favorite minute of music in the whole entire world, and the rest of which wouldn’t kill you to hear, either: "Pleasant Little Kingdom / Too Many Mornings" (from Follies, music and lyrics by Mr. Stephen Sondheim. He did both as solos, but “Too Many Mornings” is a duet with Judy Blazer on his album Oscar & Steve).

The Secret Garden on the lake

I walked to the Theater on the Lake last night for their first show of the season, which turned out to be a bit of a mistake (the walk, not the show). It's smack in the dab of Lincoln Park and a straight shot down the path to Fullerton, which is marvelous when it's light out and the path is crowded with bikers and joggers, but not so much when you step out of the theater into the darkness alone at 10:15 p.m. and have a mile to go before you're home. But sometimes we need these reminders to jolt ourselves back to reality. Quickly. And never again, as they say.

It was presented by the Porchlight Music Theatre, which did a phenomenal scaled-down version of Sweeney Todd in 2004, for which they won several Jeff Awards. Theater by the Lake (honestly, that's what it's called) is kind of a small warehouse space, no-frills but comfortable enough for a $17.50 show, although the AC was cranked to the maximum maximum and the acoustics were so bad I missed at least 40% of the dialogue and lyrics. Luckily I'm not much troubled by that sort of thing and tend to catch up pretty quickly, but the first five minutes were a total blur: actors playing ghosts waltzing through a little girl's bedroom as they pass a red handkerchief back and forth, what is actually a macabre version of musical chairs where they die off, one by one, from cholera, leaving the little girl, Mary Lennox, all alone in Colonial India (it's 1906 and no, I haven't read the Frances Hodgson Burnett story, either. I see my literary education is dotted with some pretty big holes.).

Mary Lennox is then sent to North Yorkshire, England, to live with her uncle on his desolate estate overlooking the moors, also coincidentally packed to the gills with ghosts, including his dead wife Lily, whom he mourns...and mourns...and mourns in at least sixty-five different songs (oh, I exaggerate). There Mary Lennox stumbles upon her dying (or is he?) young cousin Colin and her aunt Lily's secret garden, both of which she brings back to life using some old Indian black magic in order to return love, joy, hope, and color to her uncle's lonely world.

The uncle is played by Michael Aaron Lindner (formerly the demon barber of Fleet Street), a fine actor blessed with a deep, warm, truly gorgeous voice—if you have the opportunity to see him in something, anything, take it. His wife in real life, Bethany Dawn Lindner (who played Johanna in Sweeney, which must have made things a little weird at home), plays his wife here, and is also impressive, haunted though she may be.

Each of these Theater on the Lake shows play for only five performances (Wednesday through Friday evenings), so the production values are on the minimal side, although perfectly adequate. The Porchlight players are all top-notch, and even the children didn't irritate me as much as I might have expected, children on stage being one of my seven horrors of the world, since they are by nature overly precious, precocious and unburdened with the nuances of facial expression (yeah, I get it: they're children, but I'm not forcing them onto a stage).

So if you've got $17.50 and a free evening, by all means go! Just hurry. And for God's sake, don't walk. That's my gift to you.

My second gift, from the 1991 Broadway recording: Mandy Patinkin singing about dragons!