Friday, January 05, 2007


Patinkin dashes madly between series & song

Mandy Patinkin has become a master at multitasking, performing his own version of an Olympic triathalon, he declared.

"In this business, you need the nonstop energy of a 2-year-old," said the singer-actor the other day from Los Angeles, as he chomped down on his usual working lunch (plain cooked chicken and a steamed veggie), carried on a phone conversation with a reporter and contemplated his afternoon shooting obligations for the CBS drama series "Criminal Minds."

In the show, so prized by the network that it's going to run an episode right after the Super Bowl next month, Patinkin plays an FBI profiler recently recovered from a mental breakdown. Evidentally, the 14- to 16-hour-a-day shooting schedule he maintains doesn't hurt Patinkin in keeping his edge on. Nor does his own, jovially "crazed" nature, he shared with a laugh.

You might also know Mandy Patinkin from TV shows such as "Chicago Hope" (for which he won an Emmy) and Showtime's "Dead Like Me," from memorable films such as "The Princess Bride" (playing a swashbuckling swordsman) and from starring roles in Broadway hits such as "Evita" and "Sunday in the Park With George."

Tonight and tomorrow, Patinkin will be in our town. More precisely, he'll be on stage at the Merriam, where he'll fine-tune his light falsetto tenor and hearty baritone to highly personal, dramatic vocal performances lightened with humorous between-song patter.

"The most arresting thing about Patinkin is the conversational, often impassioned quality of his singing... . You find yourself listening like you've never listened before," raved the Washington Post. And the London Evening Standard called him "a master entertainer of a type once thought to be extinct."

Joined by longtime piano accompanist Paul Ford, Mandy will dish out some of the tunes he's made famous on Broadway and celebrated on themed albums such as his century-of-music-spanning (Irving Berlin to Alan Menken) "Experiment" and all-Yiddish "Marmoloshen."

Q: You've done movies, you've done TV, you've done concerts and recordings. If you had to focus on just one area, which would it be?

A: Music's the thing I really love the most in the world. It keeps me sane. I'm a pretty dark guy. My journey in life is trying to find the light, so I gravitate to songwriters who can take me there - from Yip Harburg's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" to Berlin's "God Bless America" and "Alexander's Ragtime Band." And [Stephen] Sondheim, he's all about turning the darkness into light, to help guys like me look for the silver lining. It's corny as hell but that's what I try to do.

Q: You were in the acting program at Juilliard, then fell into singing almost as an afterthought, didn't you?

A: I didn't have any formal musical training when I got the part of Che in "Evita." That was 1978. So I called up this singing coach, Andy Anselmo, and said, "Can you make me strong, so I don't hurt myself? I'm playing this part where I never shut up - I sing for two hours every night." After he heard me, he said, "You may not know what you're doing, but you're doing it right." He gave me exercises to do. Later, another coach, Joan Lader, also helped me out.

Q: What's your vocal training regime all about ?

A: On days when I'm doing concerts, I stay in bed all day. Actually, I get up and go the gym, then go back to sleep, then get up and go back to the gym, and I vocalize while I exercise, for basically the length of my concert performance. I try and pick a training machine where the guy next to me is wearing earphones. If a guy was singing show tunes next to me, I think I'd probably kill him.

My diet's also very important. I try and keep it simple, and stay away from carbs that will get you high but then drop you down. And right before the show, I chomp on a Zone bar and have a glass of green tea, for energy.

Q: You've recently started doing a concert show with your "Evita" co-star Patti Lupone, haven't you?

A: It's heavy on Richard Rodgers and Stephen Sondheim songs. Every song has a distinct, dramatic personality. We premiered it in Texas, and we're going to start doing it again in April, after "Criminal Minds" stops shooting for the season. I gotta tell you, it doesn't get any better than being on stage with Patti.

Q: On another subject, what brought you back to television? When you walked away from "Chicago Hope," midseason [in 1996], you said you'd never do TV again.

A: Actually, I quit so I could spend time with my family. My kids were little, we were living in New York and I was shooting in L.A. Even when they came out to visit, it was hard to see them.

I went back to TV a few years ago with "Dead Like Me," 'cause the boys are grown men now. And I actually find television extremely challenging.

It's like David Kelley told me in the "Chicago Hope" days - a TV show is like a runaway train that you can't get off till it crashes. The pace is breakneck.

You spend most of your life on the set.

The crew becomes your family. In movies, you shoot a half a page of script a day.

In TV, it's 10 pages a day.


Anonymous said...

I would love to see him in concert.

Anonymous said...

or on the stage.

Anonymous said...

What a great interview! Thanks for posting.

It sounds like he doesn't have plans to leave CM any time soon. That is a very, very good thing!

Zone bar and green tea - I'll have to remember that.

Anonymous said...

Great article. Thanks.

Catty Lizzie said...

I read that article this morning before I left. It was good that I did, too, or I'd have been checking out every street corner as I drove by the theatre on my "test run".

Haven't yet found the stage door, despite getting stuck in traffic. :(

Anonymous said...

wonderful article. i hope you have fun cat at the concert.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this.

Anonymous said...

you know, the more I hear about his singing, the more I want to hear him. you think he'd come around Seattle every once in awhile, wouldn't you? he was by my parents place not so long ago...and I honestly don't know why my dad didn't go.

jacqui #136

Anonymous said...

I love the interview, thanks so much for posting!

Jemma #126

jenn said...

I know this article is old but I only recently found the blog and am having a blast going back though the archives. How did anyone not mention how cool it would be to go to the same gym as MP? He said he sings as he exercises. Could it get any better than that?