As two of the most acclaimed stars of musical theater over the past three decades, any time that Mandy Patinkin and Patti LuPone pair up for a performance is cause for celebration among their legions of fans.
So when it was announced that the duo would be performing their new show, An Evening With Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin, at the Scranton Cultural Center — one of only three stops, along with Syracuse and Palo Alto, for the production — Broadway’s loss was the region’s gain.
For Patinkin, it doesn’t matter what the venue or the locale is, as long as he gets to perform.
“We don’t care where we take it — we love traveling, we love bringing our work to people. We’ll go anywhere in the world, we don’t care where it is,” Patinkin exclaimed during a recent phone interview.
The show, which comes to the Scranton Cultural Center in Scranton, Pa., for five performances May 9 to 11, is a musical love story told through a set list chosen by the two Broadway legends that guides audiences on “a figurative journey of two souls using familiar and unfamiliar material both spoken and sung,” according to Patinkin.
“It’s a real celebration of life and old friends. Patti and I are 30-plus-year-old friends and we use this material to sort of walk through life, just have fun, get away from the world.”
The show includes numbers from Carousel, South Pacific, Merrily We Row Along and Evita — the 1979 musical in which Patinkin and LuPone burst onto the Broadway scene, with his widely acclaimed portrayal of Ché and her defining interpretation of Eva Perón.
Their work together on Evita spawned a lasting friendship that laid the groundwork for their current show, which came about thanks to a Texas-sized tall tale told by a lone Star state concert promoter.
“He told a little bit of a white lie,” Patinkin said, referring to a music theater booker in Richardson, Tex., where the duo first debuted An Evening together in 2002. “He called her people and said they had me, and then he called my people and said they had her — and they didn’t have either one of us.”
The gamble paid off and Patinkin, uninterested in performing a typical showcase that involved the two of them doing solos and a duet finale, put together the current show with the help of pianist Paul Ford and choreographer Ann Reinking. The rest, as they say, is history.
“It’s just a piece that I deeply love because I love being with her, I love looking in her eyes — it’s like being in a time machine. I’m instantly 30 years younger. She’s the best in the world,” Patinkin said of LuPone.
Patinkin’s theater career may be a revelation to those who have come to know him through iconic film roles like that of Avigdor in 1983’s Yentl and as Inigo Montoya in 1987’s The Princess Bride. His character, a Spanish swordsman on a mission of vengeance against the man who murdered his father, is beloved by generations of fans for uttering the lines: “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
More recently, Patinkin has enlivened the small screen as Saul Berenson, a CIA operative on the Showtime series Homeland for which he was nominated for Golden Globe and Emmy awards in 2013.
To top it all off, the busy Patinkin somehow found the time to record several music albums throughout his career, including the all-Yiddish 1998 release, Mamaloshen.
At 61, one might assume that Patinkin has had enough with the chaotic life of acting and is looking to slow down and enjoy the fruits of his prosperous career — but that assessment couldn’t be farther from the truth.
“I love traveling, it makes me feel alive, it doesn’t tire me. I love bringing the work to other people,” he said. “I’m such a theater addict that I love being with the audience because the audience is part of the performance.
“I’d say if there’s one word in my life that I wanted on my door head and the wishes and lips of people who knew me, it was that I tried to connect, the word ‘connect’ in every way imaginable,” he said. “That’s my wish, my goal for myself, for my work, for my family, for my friends.”
Just before hopping on a flight bound for Boston and yet another performance, Patinkin offered one last tidbit of life advice.
“You never know what the future’s going to be. When we made The Princess Bride, it was a wonderful story that I connected with the minute I read it but we had no idea it would become what it became and that it would connect generations all through the years,” Patinkin said. “So that’s just one of the gifts, you have no idea what’s going to happen and so the thing to do is get up, take a risk, go to work, kiss your kids, kiss your wife and have a good day and thank God you’re alive.”