The cavernous, clutter-filled stage of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion provides a proper backdrop for this thematically quirky but musically sumptuous solo outing by Tony- and Emmy Award-winner Mandy Patinkin (Broadway’s “Evita,” CBS’ “Chicago Hope”). Possessing a most malleable and theatrically tantalizing vocal instrument, Patinkin haphazardly scattered his musical gems in a near-chaotic assemblage of works that included heaping quantities of Sondheim, large smatterings of Andrew Lloyd Webber and contributions from Rodgers & Hammerstein, Irving Berlin, Meredith Wilson, Harry Chapin, Leroy Anderson and Hoagy Carmichael.
Dressed in New Balance sneakers, black gabardine slacks and long-sleeved T-shirt, the singer opened his show with a medley of tunes that glorify the pleasures of solitude, segueing into an emotion-driven rendition of Sondheim’s “Everybody Says Don’t.” With nary a word of explanation, he plowed right into a narration of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” which flowed into patter song “The Altogether,” originally made famous by Danny Kaye. Later, he further proved his lyrical dexterity with another Kaye word-twister, “The Minute Waltz,” as well as a tongue-numbing flight with Leroy Anderson’s “Holiday for Strings.”
Patinkin’s medleys are mood driven rather than thematic. There is no other reason why he would unite Hoagy Carmichael’s “Japanese Sandman” with Harry Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle.” The same can be said for his haunting rendition of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “You Are Beautiful,” which flows into Sondheim’s “Not a Day Goes By.”
Patinkin glories in the sound of the Yiddish language, which he utilizes to great comical affect in his renditions of novelty tunes such as “The Hokey Pokey” (with audience participation); his Yiddish interpretation of “God Bless America” gives added relevance to this Irving Berlin patriotic tuner.
Of the many musical highlights in this near two-hour tunefest, Patinkin’s soaring rendition of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Bali Hai” exhibited the stratospheric range and emotional depth of the performer. Equally memorable was his Bert Lahr-like rendering of “If I Only Had the Nerve,” from “The Wizard of Oz,” and a dramatically captivating turn with Meredith Wilson’s “Trouble” from “The Music Man.”
As a narrator, Patinkin exudes a boyish charm that becomes a bit tedious when he goes off on a 15-minute tangent about the tribulations of buying a stage outfit. Of greater interest are musings on how he courted his wife but the singer still tends to prattle on beyond the viability of his subject matter.
In his encore, Patinkin recalled his first visit to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in the late ’70s, re-creating his Che Guevara persona from “Evita” and then offered his own musical ode to tolerance, joining “You’ve Got to Be Taught” (“South Pacific”) and “Children Will Listen” (“Into the Woods”).
Patinkin’s accompanist is Paul Ford, performing on an unpretentious upright piano, who intuitively and seamlessly underscores every nuance of the singer’s vocal meanderings. He is aided greatly by Otis Munderloch’s perfectly balanced sound and the understated lighting of Eric Cornwell.