by Carole Di Tosti
In Mandy Patinkin’s one-night only performance at the Rose Theater Lincoln Center, Mandy Patinkin: In Concert, the star of stage, screen, television, recording studio and concert hall pulled out all the stops to present one of the most dynamic concerts I have been honored to attend in recent years. Accompanied by the amazing Adam Ben-David on piano and for a few Yiddish numbers by Hanna Khoury on the violin, the evening was unforgettable.
In concert whether singing/acting, casually relating anecdotes or good naturedly teasing members of the audience about being late, the consummate virtuoso demonstrates his prodigious gifts in an anointing which mesmerizes. With his limpid voice and stellar technique, he is like a chameleon possessed of a variety of moods and emotions which he adeptly, seamlessly renders. Throughout the silences, the life lessons, the electric communication between the audience and Patinkin, one feels his visceral comprehension of the human condition.
Presented by the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene in celebration of their Gala 2016, 101st consecutive season, Patinkin was an integral and vibrant part of the tribute to honor the 18-year tenure of NYTF Artistic Director Zalmen Mlotek and his wife Debra for their dedication establishing a reawakening and appreciation of Yiddish Culture. Ever since Joseph Papp inspired him decades ago to sing a Yiddish song at a benefit for Papp, Mandy Patinkin has embraced the Yiddish language and culture in ever widening circles to the point where his life has been transformed. He affirmed this as he chatted with the audience in between singing his repertoire of Yiddish folk songs, contemporary show tunes, innovations on songs from the past and much more.
Long ago Joseph Papp insisted, “You have to learn this music. That’s your job.” Patinkin promised Papp that he would. That set him on a journey of learning scores of ancestral songs in Yiddish, gleaning their pronunciations, researching the tunes and establishing dear friendships with those in the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene. Eventually, amongst his numerous recordings which include the CBS Records and the Nonesuch labels, he added his personal project, Mamaloshen (“the mother tongue”), a collection of traditional, classic and contemporary songs sung entirely in Yiddish. It was many of these songs that he performed during the concert.
Patinkin is a virtuoso artist of the highest order. He draws you in and keeps you on the roller coaster of highs and lows until you are shaking with joy, sorrow, enthusiasm and empathy for the travails of humankind. The songs that he sang/acted in Yiddish were humorous, profound, heartfelt. Though many in the audience didn’t understand every word, they allowed the melodies and his soulful emotions, imbued with the power of the wide ranging lower to upper registers of his incredible instrument, to wash over them in tides of feeling. The unknown words were known after all. They struck our hearts with the beauty of a shared, ancient knowledge of life’s valleys and mountaintops.
His selections of show tunes from musicals Sundays in the Park with George, The Music Man and Carousel’s “My Boy Bill” revealed his facility with song characterizations as he fused all the colors of his vocal palette into an emotional rainbow of sound and human connection. His energy with “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody” and other innovative spins on decades old tunes indicates his willingness to evolve the static to create variety and truthfulness for a different time and place proving that the old can be new and can resonate for us today.
At his most dynamic, Patinkin inhabits every song with the substance of its ethos interpreted to perfection. His performance style is causal and smooth but the grace he effects and his diversity of technique has been garnered throughout the years of his vast experience conquering every entertainment medium.
Throughout this heavenly event Mandy Patinkin shined his unique faith and spiritual self in a communion of life as if to say, “Here, I give myself to you.” We will continue to receive him with open embrace and send all of his generosity of spirit and love back to him one hundredfold across the miles, in our hearts and minds.
To review Mandy Patinkin’s touring dates see his website: http://www.mandypatinkin.org/
For upcoming events presented by the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene including their award nominated The Golden Bride, check their website: http://nytf.org/