November 23rd, 2011
10:37 PM ET
Stage legends Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin are now on Broadway with their own (aptly titled) show, "An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin."
The event made its debut Monday night at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, featuring musical numbers from greats like Stephen Sondheim ("Gypsy," "Follies"), Rodgers & Hammerstein ("South Pacific," "Carousel"), Andrew Lloyd Webber ("Evita") and others.
Patinkin, arguably best known as "Princess Bride" swashbuckler Inigo Montoya, is most at home singing live onstage. He called "An Evening with Patti and Mandy" a "tale of two people on a journey."
The two actors met during rehearsals for the Broadway production of "Evita," for which they both won Tony Awards in 1979. They remained great friends, but never got the opportunity to work together until now.
As for how their show started, "we were asked, a number of years ago, to open a theater in Richardson, Texas," Patinkin recalled during a recent interview with CNN. "The bookers from Texas called my booker and said, 'We have Patti,' and they called Patti's booker and said they had me. Could we each do 20 minutes [of a stage show], and then do a number together and say goodnight? I hated those kinds of evenings and, in fact, they didn’t have either one of us. They were just schmoozing."
Patinkin was ready to blow off the overzealous Texas bookers when he had an idea.
"I said to Paul Ford, my collaborator and piano player for 24 years, 'Do you think we could put together an evening where we tell a story, and we could do it over and over again and we could change it over the years?' He [Ford] said 'Yes!' So I said, 'Let me go talk to Patti.'"
LuPone was doing "Noises Off" on Broadway at the time, and Patinkin presented her with his idea.
"She said, in her inimitable style, 'Go ahead, doll!'" Patinkin told CNN. So he and Paul set about collecting material from both of the star’s repertoires.
Then he and LuPone asked, "What's the story we want to tell? How do we want them [our characters] to meet? What do we want to have happen? We looked for material that we didn't already know and then it was a mixture of new and old. It was familiar and unfamiliar both to the audience and to us. And we started stringing together this tale."
In the end, "We put together a story of two souls in a figurative journey using familiar and unfamiliar material, both spoken and sung,” Patinkin said. “We've been doing it ever since, we keep changing it every now and then and it's just been a great gift to both of us."
With "Evita," for example, LuPone and Patinkin wanted to pick their characters' most iconic songs ("Don't Cry for Me Argentina" and "Oh What a Circus," respectively.).
Patinkin, who also directs, told CNN that there are "no rules."
"We do mini-versions of certain plays," explained Patinkin, "because they suit the part of the story where these two people meet, or where they're getting married, or where they're reflecting on their lives - from the past, to the present, to the future; or, just thinking back in time... the timelessness of lovers, the agelessness of human beings needing to meet each other.”
For example, “we do this version of 'Carousel,' like a whole little mini-play of 'Carousel,' but within it we do the entire bench scene written for 20-somethings. But in my opinion, if I had to sit down with Rodgers & Hammerstein this morning and ask them to write me a scene, I don't think they could have done better for a scene for the two of us than writing the bench scene from 'Carousel.' It's ageless."
Does Patinkin have a difficult time juggling directing and acting in the show?
"No, no... Directing schmeckting," said Patinkin. "When you're working with somebody like Patti, the direction is, 'Please be there at eight o'clock and I'll walk out with you.' And that's about it. The only real directing part has been listening to friends and stuff, like finding David Korins to help us with the set, who's very gifted; and Eric Cornwell to help us with lighting and I have Paul Ford, who works on these extraordinary music arrangements. Patti puts in her thoughts all the time. We're doing it together, so it's a true collaboration."
LuPone added that "to be onstage with Mandy is to be safe and to be in danger, to take the risk and have a safety net. You want to be onstage with actors like that. It's called freedom…I have that with Mandy, and Mandy knows he has that with me. That's really important for that electricity that happens that's given to the audience so that the audience has an experience."
After their Broadway run ends on January 13, LuPone and Patinkin will bring "An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin" to Kansas City, Missouri; Sarasota, Florida; Thousand Oaks, California; Stevens Point, Wisconsin; and finally Richardson, Texas - where the idea was set in motion.
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