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Mandy Patinkin and Patti LuPone celebrate 35 years of friendship on the Bing stage

Courtesy of Brigitte Lacomb.

Courtesy of Brigitte Lacomb.

When Mandy Patinkin and Patti LuPone opened “Evita” together on Broadway in 1979, they not only launched their stage careers and captured audiences’ hearts, but they also became lifelong friends. On Saturday evening, in front of a sold-out Bing Concert Hall, they enraptured audiences once more, celebrating their 35 years of friendship in “An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin.”

For most students, Patinkin is probably best known as Saul Berenson from Showtime’s “Homeland,” or as the ever-quotable Inigo Montoya of “The Princess Bride.” LuPone, the original Fantine from “Les Misérables,” may be most recognizable at Stanford from her recent cameo on HBO’s “Girls”. However, neither of their respective histories on screen came into play on Saturday. Instead, the evening was dedicated to duets and solos from some of LuPone’s and Patinkin’s most famous musical performances.

They opened the evening with two Stephen Sondheim numbers before launching into a set from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific,” when the magic of the performance began in earnest. As Patinkin and LuPone stood together at the center of the sparsely decorated Bing stage and began “Some Enchanted Evening,” the atmosphere of the auditorium changed dramatically.

At 65, LuPone still has it, and Patinkin’s deep, rich voice complemented hers beautifully; although they were accompanied by a piano and bass, LuPone and Patinkin were in their own world on stage, and invited audiences in to glimpse the joy they shared with each other. By the end of the song, some of the audience was in tears, setting the tone for what would be an evening that spanned an emotional spectrum from the euphoria of love to the sadness of loss and rejection. Few pairs could achieve such a remarkable emotional swing with little more than the loose ties of musical theater pieces and no set or supporting cast to rely on.

In the first act, LuPone and Patinkin’s commitment to their roles dominated the show, but by the second half of the evening, they opened up to the audience, letting us in on the friendship they had cherished for so long. The two behemoths of musical theater became more real, joking with each other and even having to redo their post-intermission entrance after timing it incorrectly the first time. Of course, the moment everyone in attendance had hoped for were renditions of Patinkin and LuPone’s signature songs from “Evita”, and “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” and “Oh, What a Circus” highlighted the night.

However, what came just before those two powerhouse performances may have been the most emotional and beautiful part of the whole show. In introducing their songs from “Evita,” LuPone and Patinkin shared the story of how they met. As Patinkin told it, he had been taken by LuPone from the start, but the critical moment for their friendship occurred on one of the first performances of “Evita,” when he found LuPone crying in her dressing room during an intermission and forced his way in to comfort her.

“I told her I was not leaving the room until she understood that she had a friend for life,” he said, to an audience so silent that shuffling feet became distracting. Smiling warmly at LuPone, he recounted taking her in his arms and holding her tight.

“I did not let go then, or ever,” Patinkin said.

More than the music, which was, itself, incredible, the night was about love, loyalty and friendship. And if the raucous standing ovation that LuPone and Patinkin received at the end is any indication, the people present to witness their friendship will not let go of the performance for a long time to come.

 

Contact Fiona Noonan at fnoonan “at” stanford.edu.