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Crossroads and Mandy Patinkin
Crossroads provides sound for Mandy Patinkin in Dallas' McFarlan Auditorium
Review: Patinkin changes gears effortlessly
He's full speed ahead from songs to anecdotes
Mandy Patinkin needs no props. He's more colorful than any stage gadget. The acclaimed singer-actor can fill a platform with the sheer breadth of his personality. He's larger than life, yet seems comfortably approachable.
There he was Thursday night at Southern Methodist University's McFarlin Auditorium, dressed in simple black slacks, a red long-sleeve pullover and sneakers. He wore a headset mike, all the better to keep his hands free. Longtime piano man and musical arranger Paul Ford was his sole accompaniment, and the McFarlin stage was bare behind him. The curtains weren't even drawn. It looked like a theater rehearsal.
That was no accident. Mr. Patinkin's performance was a benefit for Colorado's Creede Repertory Theatre, the company where he learned his craft back in the early '70s. So the surroundings were an appropriate mood setter for the cause.
But most important, you got the full spectrum of Mr. Patinkin's talents with minimal distractions. Although it would be hard to imagine anybody's mind wandering from the amazing presence under the spotlight. The Chicago-born entertainer is the personification of tour de force. He's effortlessly unpredictable, manic and passionate. You never see the wheels turning.
The show was musical, of course, with Mr. Ford and Mr. Patinkin tackling a broad range of material, from Broadway tunes (his specialty) to children's songs and folk-pop classics. And yet, at least a quarter of the concert was about Mr. Patinkin telling stories about his wife, Kathryn, his two sons, Isaac and Gideon, his time at Creede and even his exasperating attempts at buying a new outfit for this tour.
Mundane stuff, all of it, but it came to vibrant, hilarious life in his hands. When he broke into song, it was almost as if he were telling another story embellished by a melody and a big finish. There were several numbers from Kidults, Mr. Patinkin's latest album, and a few more from his five other records. Every time he started a song, it was hard to tell how it would end up.
"Singin' in the Bathtub" seemed like an innocent, jovial ditty about crooning and splashing in the tub. Until out of nowhere Mr. Patinkin switched characters and became the comically irate mother of the boy who's spending too much time in the bathroom. Then, "Holiday for Strings" began as a lovely piano piece, slow and soothing, before he donned a hand puppet and morphed into a craggy heckler who speeds up the number.
Such abrupt changes are no challenge for Mr. Patinkin, who sings with the instinct of an actor and the confidence of a showman. He's theatrical but not overwrought. He can make his pliable voice go from a soft tone to an operatic belt in seconds. He's a roller-coaster ride, and you're along for the thrills.
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