Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

June 17, 2009

Mandy Patinkin: "Dress Casual"

Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield
by Karolina Sadowicz

When Mandy Patinkin says "Dress Casual," he means it. The set for his show befits this atmosphere. Dressed in a black shirt, black slacks, and sneakers, he appears on a stage that seems more fitting of a rehearsal or audition. There are boxes, a ladder, seemingly misplaced furniture, and of course a piano. His performance, however, carries no slack. Though the promise of a Broadway star, now in his mid-50s, singing old standards does not seem to offer the unexpected, Patinkin's energy, affability, and humor bring new life to the familiar.

Patinkin commanded the Colonial stage for nearly two hours with the accompaniment of longtime, performing partner Paul Ford on piano, and occasional choral backup from the audience. Though there appear to be no frills, his singing is the main event and rises above expectations. He bobs and weaves between up-tempo, fast-talking numbers from "Oklahoma" to thoughtful, wistful selections from "Sunday in the Park with George." With a vocal range that refuses to diminish, he moves from grave baritone to surprisingly youthful falsetto, all while maintaining a level of energy and intensity that commands respect and attention.

Patinkin and Ford keep the pacing swift and playful, and Patinkin tosses in anecdotes and manages to slip in a quick "bless you!" to sneezing audience members without missing a beat. Losing a contact lens on the stage while belting out a showstopper, he laughs it off, and then reels the audience back into the song.

As for the surprises, it would be a shame to give them all away here, but Patinkin also pays homage to Charlie Chaplin and silent cinema, and gets everyone in stitches by singing "God Bless America" - among other songs - in Yiddish. With a fresh and joyous approach to the classics of Irving Berlin, Sondheim, and others, quick humor, and unparalleled singing, Patinkin gives a show that evolves with time and the venue, and exceeds expectations on every note.