Wednesday, August 31, 2011
At Ravinia Festival, Highland Park, IL
Unique and emotional concert by two professionals at the peak of their art
Broadway icon Mandy Patinkin and opera star Nathan Gunn meet while sharing a dressing room before a tribute to Sondheim. The two singing giants quickly became friends. Patinkin got the idea that they should do a concert together and the two-hander (each with their accompaniment pianists) developed their intriguing concert that played at Ravinia on a hot and muggy night in Highland ParK. That heat didn’t deter these two from singing their hearts out for almost two hours!
Ever the stylist tenor who loves patter songs, word-intensive and emotionally explosive songs – Mandy Patinkin never sounded better. Nathan Gunn, the powerful baritone and classical opera star easily breezed through his varied assortment of tunes that included cowboy songs, Broadway tunes with a sampling of pop and folk tunes. The songs challenged each and their duets played to comic instincts and gentle playfulness.
The wide-ranging program of Broadway, opera, Americana, Yiddish and pop selections gave the audience enough variety to please most tastes. From Patinkin doing Mercer’s “Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” to the catchy duet from The Music Man about “knowing the territory,” Patinkin and Gunn produced a charming stage chemistry that thrilled us to no end!
Songs in Yiddish to an opera baritone gentling rendering “Tenting Tonight” and “Shenandoah” while Patinkin recited the Gettysburg Address added a moving moment to the concert. Gideon Patinkin, Mandy’s son joined his father for a couple of tunes including “Trouble” from The Music Man. Gunn’s accomplished wife, Julie Jordan Gunn played piano that complimented her husband especially in his tribute to Camelot. Paul Ford, Patinkin’s piano accordionist together with Julie gave the two super-star singers deft musical arrangements.
The evening’s eclectic songs created high emotions, smooth nostalgia, as well as breezy musical treats. Each had their moments – Patinkin: strong sensitive renderings; Gunn showed charm, power and clarity. The result was one of the most fascinating and truthful musical concerts this reporter has witnessed!
Date Reviewed: August 31, 2011