Not many concerts come with a guarantee, but Mandy Patinkin is making one for his Nov. 19 performance at Salt Lake City’s Eccles Theater. “I promise you, we’re going to have a good time,” he said.
He’s not going out on a limb. If you’ve ever seen Patinkin perform a one-man show, you know how much fun it is. Not just for the audience, but for Patinkin.
It is “my favorite thing to do, period,” the actor and singer told The Salt Lake Tribune. “It’s where my heart is. And if I had to choose between everything, I would absolutely choose that.”
And he’s had plenty of choices. On TV, he’s appeared in almost 30 TV series and TV movies, including starring roles in “Chicago Hope” (for which he won an Emmy), “Criminal Minds” and “Homeland.” He’s appeared in almost 40 movies, including “Yentl,” “The Princess Bride” -- as the swordsman Inigo Montoya -- and “Alien Nation.” On Broadway and off-Broadway, he’s starred in 40 shows, including “Evita” (winning a Tony as Che), “Sunday in the Park with George” and “The Secret Garden.” He’s released a dozen albums, and appears on half a dozen cast albums.
It’s not just the length of his credits that’s astounding, it’s the breadth.
“Well, I consider that good luck,” Patinkin said. “I mean, I’m nothing that special. I like to sing. I like to act. Once you do one thing, you meet people and sometimes you get additional opportunities.”
Others would disagree. Patinkin is something special, and his live performances are exactly that. From the moment he takes the stage, it’s clear how much he’s enjoying himself.
Riding out the pandemic
His last tour ended a week before the COVID-19 pandemic began shutting everything down. “And then I thought, ‘Oh, well, I was always thinking about retiring, maybe this is it.’”
Thoughts of retirement only lasted for the first 4 or 5 months of the pandemic. “And then I realized I missed the structure that work of all nature -- concerts and acting and filming and recording -- afforded my life. And it was the structure, I realized, that was the definition of my existence. ... I couldn’t wait to get back.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic raging, live performances weren’t possible. He stayed home and did voice work — including providing the voice of Benjamin Franklin in Ken Burns’ PBS documentary about the founding father. But, eventually, he and his piano accompanist, Adam Ben-David, were able to get together in a studio -- wearing masks -- and start working on a new song cycle.
“Before the pandemic, I did a piece I’d put together of a lot of music I’d never done before, and I called it ‘Diaries.’ I liked it a lot, but it was very dark,” Patinkin said. “And I realized it was somewhat of an echo of the times we were living through. …
“And then the pandemic hit. I started putting together material and I said, ‘You know what? Let’s start from scratch.’ … I think everyone else in the world right now needs a break from darkness.”
Lesson learned in Moab
It’s a lesson he learned here in Utah. He said he loves visiting Moab, “and one time I joined a friend there, and it was going to rain all weekend. And I went, ‘Oh, [expletive]. It’s [expletive] raining.’
“And my friend looked at me and went, ‘Yeah, isn’t that great?’ And then he takes me down to the grocery store at the end of Main Street and we get these yellow slickers. And he said, ‘Wait till you see it when it’s all wet.’ And it was the most beautiful I’d ever seen. … There’s nothing so bad that good cannot come from it.”
Salt Lake City will be the second stop on Patinkin’s current tour. He opened the new show last month in Medford, Oregon, and “had the best time that I can remember. ... I can’t wait to do more. Every day I run through the material. I take a walk and sing it in the park.”
By the way, he’s given up all thoughts of retirement. After his performance at the Eccles, he’ll return to Vancouver to finish filming the Hulu series “Career Opportunities in Murder & Mayhem,” in which he plays a detective. Then he will resume the concert tour in January.
And at some point in the next few months, he will film a pilot for another TV series for Showtime: “Seasoned,” a comedy based on his “delightfully tumultuous” 43-year marriage to Kathryn Grody. The two became social media stars during the pandemic as their son, Gideon, chronicled their lives on Twitter.
“I’m not for retiring because I think people need to be active and feeling alive and doing what they love to do — if you’re so lucky to do what you love to do,” he said.
Mandy and the audience
According to Patinkin, the audience feeds into his performance “100% — in every way imaginable. … I’m not up there alone. I’m up there with every single member of the audience. And so it’s not a solo concert.”
His fans are “cheerleaders,” he said. “They really say, ‘Hey, man, we’re with you, no matter what. You screw up, you run out of breath -- we don’t care.’”
And he is accustomed to supportive audiences in Utah. “I’ve been there a bunch and I always love it there. It’s a wonderful audience,” Patinkin said. “I never regret going there, that’s for sure.”
It may seem counterintuitive, but he says that going on a national concert tour is “the thing that’s the easiest for a family life.” He has his bookers and producer build a schedule that allows him to go home to New York for family events, whereas doing a movie or a TV series is “much more rigorous and less flexible. You are locked in until it’s over, and it’s usually about four months.”
The joy of grandfatherhood
He’s got a new reason to want to get home as often as possible. On Feb. 5, he became a grandfather for the first time. What’s that like?
“Well, it’s [expletive] incredible,” he said, laughing.
Patinkin said he didn’t push his sons to have children, but admitted he started feeling “curious” about it when he turned 65. (He’ll turn 70 on Nov. 30.) “And then, all of a sudden one day. [his son, Isaac, and daughter-in-law, Lennon] told me that they were going to have a kid, and I nearly passed out. I was so overwhelmed with emotion.”
He said he disagrees with anyone who says that grandparents “get all the good stuff, and then you get to go home. I don’t see it that way at all. I don’t want to go home. I want to be with him. I want to stay all night long.”
But that’s difficult because he’s been in Vancouver shooting that Hulu series. “I have made several trips for just a day or two to go to the East Coast to see my grandchild. Because it goes so fast,” Patinkin said. “From the minute they’re born, all of a sudden they’re X amount of pounds more and they’re this many inches bigger. And now they’re sitting up and crawling and playing hide and seek and laughing. So, I mean, everything you want to see and not miss is happening like lightning.”
The way he sees it, he’s got one primary role as a grandfather: “to spoil him rotten,” Patinkin said with a laugh. “I always threaten my daughter-in-law -- because she’s worried I’m going to spoil him -- I say, ‘If you keep giving me these rules, I’m coming home with a pony.”
Mandy Patinkin in concert
When • Saturday Nov. 19, at 7:30 p.m.
Where • Eccles Theater, 131 S. Main St., Salt Lake City.
Tickets • $35-$125, available at myarttix.org, by calling 801-355-ARTS (2787), and at the Eccles box office.
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