Monday, 10 February 2014

Musical Tears

Mandy Patinkin made me cry.

That in and of itself shouldn't sound so unusual. Beautiful voices and impeccably performed songs often have that effect on me. I openly wept during the first act finale of Wicked. That's the scene where Elphaba ascends to the heights while belting out "Defying Gravity." I've seen the show and the scene multiple times, but only Idina Menzel brought me to tears. There was just something about the way she sold it.

I sobbed uncontrollably at a Susan Werner concert when she first introduced "Manhattan, Kansas." She just sat alone at the piano and delivered this achingly beautiful rendition about an unwanted pregnancy. I have never experienced a life-changing event such as she was relating, rather I simply connected viscerally to her pain and my emotion was unharnessed.

Music has that kind of power over me. Specifically, certain artists singing certain songs in very special one-of-a-kind settings, have the ability to push me to tear-jerking moments.

Mandy Patinkin delivered that experience to me last evening...twice.

I have always been a fan of Mandy's. (It's ok that I call him Mandy. I think that he would want me to. We've bonded.) The Broadway geek in me has always been astounded by his clear, pure tenor that  truly hasn't lost much over the years. He never fails to challenge himself as an artist, musician, or an actor as is evidenced by his eclectic resumé. So when my parents offered me a ticket to his show in Fort Lauderdale as a belated birthday gift, I enthusiastically said yes.

It is the rare performer who can command a sold out crowd with nothing more than his talent. No props, no sets, no gaudy lighting, no orchestra. Just him. Oh...and he brought along a phenomenally gifted pianist playing a well-worn upright, and of course a willing audience.

My cry trigger has had a short response time lately. I tear up at Hallmark commercials. (I mean, honestly. Have you seen the one where the single mom works two jobs to put her incredibly gifted daughter through college? It's a wonder more of us aren't puddles of goo.) I blubber while viewing old pictures and I weep with abandon while imagining myself shopping for dresses for the upcoming wedding. My emotions are sitting firmly on the surface and small things tend to set me off. But, last night was different.

Surprisingly enough it wasn't his flawless delivery of any Broadway standard that initially turned on my waterworks. It was his cover of a Patty Griffin tune called "Making Pies" that had me going. He managed to turn this already beautiful song about life and love into a stinging reminder of our recent loss. It physically hurt to listen to it and I squirmed in my seat while tears streamed down my cheeks.

And if that wasn't enough, it happened the end. He came out for a surprise encore. I say surprise because he had already been on stage without any break for an hour and 45 minutes. He closed with Sondheim's "Being Alive" from Company. Every time I have previously heard it performed, I have thought of it as a lament...a tale of lost loves and missed opportunities. Mandy sang it as though he were encouraging us to remember that we are still here and that we must celebrate every single moment.

I cried and it felt right. I needed that moment. That moment of pure musical connection. She was there in that moment. I felt her presence.

Note: I have no video from last evening, but you can search for Mandy's performances on YouTube. Here is Susan Werner singing Manhattan, Kansas. I still get misty when I hear it.