Broadway stars Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin have proven a powerful team ever since they performed in Evita more than 30 years ago. Now they’re together (with music director Paul Ford) in a show packed with Broadway songs written by everyone from Richard Rodgers to Stephen Sondheim. “An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin” takes place Feb. 14 at Van Wezel (953-3368 or vanwezel.org). We chatted with them about their onstage chemistry and offstage friendship—ladies first.
Q. Is this show a collaboration between you and Mandy?
A. Mandy is a very collaborative person, but actually at the time I was onstage and traveling so much, and I told him he would have to do it with [music director] Paul. The concept is all Mandy’s.
Q. Was it designed to have you sing some songs you wouldn’t otherwise have done?
A. Oh, no. The show is a journey, a love story, and so the songs are appropriate for telling that story. It just depends on what songs segue beautifully into one another.
Q. Why did you two click so well initially and stay friends for so long?
A. There’s a similarity in temperament. He was very sympathetic to me when I was struggling with Evita. I didn’t realize that he was as terrified as I was. Our relationship is an organic, chemical thing. I’m so grateful to him for many things, but especially the ways he accepts me onstage. The other evening I did something in the show I didn’t plan, and I said to him later, “I’m so sorry for that.” He said, “There is no wrong.” It’s incredibly rare to find a friendship onstage where everything is accepted.
Q. Can you see doing the show again and again over the years?
A. Oh, we’ll be doing it until we drop dead. It will evolve, of course. We’re singing more in two hours than anyone sings in a musical; we sing 25 songs. And it definitely takes a lot of stamina.
Q. What’s in the future for you?
A. We’re in negotiations to do a new [David] Mamet play that will start rehearsing in the fall, and I’m excited about that; it’s been quite a while since Mamet and I have worked together.
Q. So, the show was your idea…how did it come about?
A. A theater in Richardson, Texas, approached us about doing a concert for their opening. I said to Paul, could we put together an evening that would tell a story, using material both familiar and unfamiliar, both spoken and sung? We started collecting all of Patti’s repertoire and all of mine; then we opened up to anything new that was out there, too, anything to tell a story of two souls. We did it in Richardson about nine years ago, and for the past 4 ½ years we’ve been working with it, making changes here and there. It’s a labor of love, and a joy. There’s nothing like being onstage with Patti. I just pinch myself and say, “Look where you are and who you’re with.”
Q. Would you say your personalities are similar or different?
A. Couldn’t be more different, but our hearts are similar. We may look tough, but inside we are pretty fragile. That’s our connective tissue.
Q. What do you admire most about Patti?
A. Her absolute, childlike devotion to optimism, to hope and life. She’s an endless font of rejuvenation. Two hours onstage with her is like a life transfusion for me.
Q. What other projects are you working on?
A. I have some solo concerts I do; also one with Nathan Gunn, the opera singer, and one with [playwright/performance artist] Taylor Mac, called The Last Two People on Earth. I also have a new song cycle concert I’m opening in February in Florida called Let Go that’s about family. And I’ll be shooting a second season of Homeland for Showtime.