Anthea Gerrie sees Mandy Patinkin live at The Lyric, London’s oldest and most beloved theatre
It’s only right that the Lyric Theatre, one of the most historic theatres in London’s West End and showcase to dozens of the world’s greatest stage stars, should currently be hosting yet another international treasure, the multi-award-winning actor, singer – and unexpected comic – Mandy Patinkin.
For two weeks only, the star who made his name in musicals and became a household fixture through television drama, is treading the boards of a building about to celebrate its 145th birthday. The Lyric Theatre first opened its doors in December 1888 on Shaftesbury Avenue, the equivalent of New York’s Broadway, and remains the oldest surviving theatre on London’s own Great White Way. Like Patinkin himself it has decades of musical theatre under its belt and has raised its curtain on the premiere of many iconic, long-running dramas too, by great bards from Shakespeare to Strindberg and Shaw.
From its century of musical productions, the night of music with Mandy Patinkin live, making an unexpected transition for those not in the know from Homeland to the West End with his concert tour, bears more in common with the 2006 revival of Cabaret at the Lyric than the jukebox musicals it has hosted including Five Guys Named Mo and Thriller Live! Patinkin may not be as cynical as Berlin’s most famous emcee, but he is certainly rueful and subversive, commenting on everything from the cost-of-living crisis to the pain of losing parents to dementia in an unexpected 90-minute set.
Sondheim you might expect from an actor steeped in musical theatre – he was, after all, the original Che in the US production of Evita, earning a Tony for the role and nominated for his Sondheim lead in Sunday in the Park with George. But it takes real bravura, chutzpah even, to attempt Bohemian Rhapsody as a solo, singing all four parts himself with only a piano accompaniment.
Mandy Patinkin also brings contemporary meaning to Irving Berlin’s Depression-era song about how the constant need for money dominates our lives in 2023 and Randy Newman’s poignant Wandering Boy, ending with an unexpected rendition in Yiddish of Over the Rainbow channelling its writers, who fled the pogroms in Russia for a better life in the USA.
Given his vigour, it’s surprising the larger than life actor with a still-strong voice likes to play it down by mimicking the aches and pains and quavering vibrato of old age – perhaps, at 71, he is aware that a beloved British star, Leonard Rossiter, died in his dressing room during a performance at the Lyric Theatre in 1984. But on the other hand the theatre has, like its current star, has withstood the challenges of the 20th century and put on a new face for the 21st – Patinkin with his star turn as a serious dramatic actor in Homeland, earning him a seventh Emmy nomination and another for a Golden Globe, and the Lyric Theatre with a beautifully restored facade.
Coming after Mandy Patinkin live is a comedy destined to be a new festive season classic – When Peter Pan Goes Wrong. But between now and November 19 there’s a rare chance to see a living Peter Pan who opens with a medley including Inchworm from the movie Hans Christian Anderson which shows he has never forgotten his childhood and echoing the words of Jim Croce. Like Croce, Mandy Patinkin aches to save time in a bottle and releases it for his audience in stories as well as song, taking us back through the personal triumphs and tribulations of our own lives.
Stage image (C) Joan Marcus
Tell Me More About Seeing Mandy Patinkin Live In Concert at The Lyric Theatre
Tickets from £20 at .thelyrictheatre