Lyrics Junkie: Mandy Patinkin, at Music Center at Strathmore

June 9, 2011


Mandy Patinkin is a conqueror. He’s won a Tony for his stage role in “Evita” and an Emmy for his part on TV’s “Chicago Hope.” But his passion is music, at which he’s a self-described plagiarizer. Rather than write tunes, he takes others’ works and strings them into shows. He’ll be covering songs by Stephen Sondheim and others tonight at 8 at the Music Center at Strathmore (5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda; Strathmore.org).

How do you choose which songs to include in your concerts?
I’m a lyric-driven fellow, so it’s the stories that matter to me. I’ve never found that a song with good lyrics doesn’t have good enough music.

You’re best known for playing Inigo Montoya in 1987′s “The Princess Bride.” Did you think it would have such staying power?
When you do a film or any job, you do it because you hope it will be a good time and you think you’ll like the people. You have no idea if it’s going to end up living and having a successful short life or, God knows, a long life like “Princess Bride” has had.

You’ve worked with the likes of Barbra Streisand and Elmo. What was your favorite role?
I always like to think it’s my next one. But I have been so blessed. My favorite role is being a husband to my wife and a father to my two children, Isaac and Gideon. But my favorite job in show business is my concert career. If you told me I could only do one thing and I had to pick and I couldn’t act or do movies or TV or be onstage anymore, could I at least do my concerts?

Why the love for these concerts?
There’s this endless, glorious reservoir of material by geniuses who wrote down what they wish for themselves and what they wish for the world. I get to be a mailman and deliver their goods.

How old were you when you started singing?
I was 7. At the synagogue, I sang in the boys’ choir and the family choir every Friday night and Saturday in the south side of Chicago. My synagogue was just a couple blocks away from Barack Obama’s house. I don’t think he lived there when I was a little boy.

When did you realize you’d have a career in music?
I was in high school. My mother said that the Young Men’s Jewish Youth Center in the area was doing a play. I said to her, “Oh, you don’t know me at all. That’s not for me.” A guy in fifth-period lunch said to me one day that they were short of some guys who were doing the show and would I be interested. I went over, got a part in the show, and I had the best time ever. I fell in love with it.

What’s on your iPod right now?
My favorite thing to listen to is my son, Gideon Grody-Patinkin. He’s a beautiful writer and musician.

Written by Express contributor Stephanie Kanowitz
Photo Courtesy of Newspix

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Marc Silver · June 8, 2011