A perfect pair: Scranton to host LuPone, Patinkin

SCRANTON – “An Evening With Mandy Patinkin and Patti LuPone” reunites the dynamic duo performers for the first time since “Evita” in 1979. LuPone played the title role and Patinkin played Che, both winning Tony Awards in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit musical.

A version of “An Evening … ,” which they have performed since 2007, has five shows this weekend. The Scranton Cultural Center at the Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave., will offer 8 p.m. performances Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. matinees Saturday and Sunday and a 7 p.m. finale Sunday.

Although Patinkin and LuPone are two of the most acclaimed musical theater performers of our time, neither – especially Patti LuPone – is a highly recognizable name.

A versatile actor and singer for more than three decades, Patinkin has made movies, notably “The Princess Bride,” but is best known for TV shows “Criminal Minds” and currently “Homeland.”

LuPone is renown as a fiery performer on-stage and equally a confrontational diva with her very public off-stage squabbles with producers, directors and co-stars. A long-list of credits and Tony nominations both for plays as well as musicals (“Evita,” “Sunset Boulevard,” “Sweeney Todd”) add to her reputation as one of Broadway’s “royalty.”

If any non-theater buff questions the drawing appeal of these two bosom buddies performing together, it’s notable that their “Evening … ” is booked for not one but five performances at the mammoth Scranton Cultural Center, which is a nearly 6,000-seat venue.

Patinkin described the show as “a figurative journey of two souls doing familiar and unfamiliar material, both spoken and unspoken,” adding, “Just being with Patti is as good as it gets, being with a brilliant performer”.

LuPone, who doesn’t tend to talk in flowery terms, described “An Evening … ” as “a love story told entirely in a masterful selection of great love songs.”

The audience gets a mix of vaudeville and mini-musicals, including “South Pacific,” “Carousel” and, of course, “Evita,” with its medley reportedly getting the loudest applause.

Set on almost a bare stage,excepting for a couple of rolling chairs and several floor lamps, the concert features many tunes from Stephen Sondheim; Rodgers and Hammerstein; Jerome Kern; and Kander and Ebb, with a few novelty tunes tossed in for laughs.

LuPone is still going strong on overdrive at age 65, with Patinkin complimenting her with his deep, rich voice. Accompanied by only piano and bass, the powerhouse couple sticks mainly to songs from their signature roles in Act I, highlighted by Patinkin singing “Oh, What A Circus” and LuPone belting “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina” from “Evita.”

Act II gives both a chance to share some personal background of how they met, and how they now celebrate their 35 years of friendship. A few richly humorous stories and jokes are intermixed with a variety of love songs showing both the joys of love and the sadness of rejection.

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Patinkin twice in his solo concerts almost 20 years ago, so seeing him join such a seasoned virtuoso like LuPone is an evening to be highly anticipated … and one that promises heartfelt, incandescent entertainment.

For tickets, contact the Scranton Cultural Center at 800-745-3500, 570-344-1111 or 570-346-7369.