These days Broadway, film and TV star Mandy Patinkin may be best known for his role as CIA Division chief Saul Berenson in the hit show "Homeland," but his first love is singing on stage. "There is nothing better or more fun. It's the love of my life," says the ebullient performer on the phone from Charlotte, North Carolina, where he has just started filming the third season of "Homeland."
On June 9, Patinkin will be in Los Angeles for a one-night benefit show at the Ford Theatre performing in front of the renowned Pasadena Pops Orchestra. The show launches the inaugural Zev Yaroslavsky Signature Series, which will benefit the Ford Theatre Foundation. With support from L.A. County Supervisor Yaroslavsky, the series intends to pair world-renowned artists with local artistic icons.
With its summer Pops series under way at the L.A. County Arboretum guest conducted by Michael Feinstein — and featuring guest vocalists including Bernadette Peters — the ensemble's repertoire of Broadway standards and the American songbook makes the Pasadena-based orchestra a fitting choice to back Patinkin.
"This is a wonderful opportunity for us," says Lora Unger, Chief Operating Officer for the Pasadena Symphony and Pops Orchestra. "Our orchestra has some of the best studio players in town. When you have an artist the caliber of Mandy Patinkin, you need to put him with the best possible orchestra."
"By playing at the Ford Theatre, we are getting a chance to expand our partnerships in the region and giving people in other venues an opportunity to hear our wonderful Pasadena orchestra," Unger adds.
For Patinkin, it's a chance to once again perform in front of a full orchestra. "It's been about 20 years since I did orchestra shows, so it's very exciting, and I've heard the Pasadena Pops is great, so I'm looking forward to it," he says.
"For me, the musicians are not just backing me," he says. "I usually apologize to the audience straight up if I turn away from them sometimes, but I want to sing to the orchestra as well. We are all in this together to make it a great night."
Since making his Broadway debut in 1980 for his Tony Award-winning role as "Che" in Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Evita," and then being nominated again in 1984 for his starring role in the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical "Sunday in the Park With George," Patinkin brings his interpretation of Broadway standards, and in particular, the Stephen Sondheim repertoire, to all his performances.
"You will definitely be getting a dose of Sondheim on the night," he says with a laugh. Songs to expect include "Being Alive" from "Company," and "No One is Alone" from "Into the Woods."
"I love his work," says Patinkin. "He is my Shakespeare. He writes every word I wish I could write."
Other songs Patinkin will be performing with the orchestra include Broadway standards "Ya' Got Trouble" from "Music Man," "Soliloquy" from "Carousel," along with popular tunes like the Kermit's famous Muppets ballad, "It's Not Easy Being Green" and Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody."
"I've never performed 'Bohemian Rhapsody' with an orchestra. This will be the first time ever I am doing it at the Ford Theatre. I think it will sound magnificent with the full orchestration," says Patinkin.
The performer has a unique way of rehearsing: He goes through his songs on his regular hikes or during breaks on the set.
"I sing wherever I am. It's a great way to run through all the material," he explains.
He's even been known to enlist co stars Damian Lewis and Claire Danes into his musical excursions. "They both have magnificent voices. I don't think you will be seeing 'Homeland, the Musical' anytime soon, but you never know; we may end up doing something together one day," he says.
"A lot of people ask if I am a singer or an actor," he adds. "I love to tell stories, so I always say I'm acting, but sometimes it has musical notes with it."
Where: John Anson Ford Theatre, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hollywood
When: June 9, 8 p.m.
More info: (323) 461-3673; for non-visual media, 323-GO-1-FORD; fordtheatres.org
KATHERINE TULICH is a regular contributor to Marquee.