Mandy Patinkin and “Leading The Fun”

L.A. Times February 4th — Daryl H. Miller reviews Mandy Patinkin at the Kodak Theatre.

One passage of the review seemed particularly apt for An Uptempo and a Ballad:

“Yet what was increasingly apparent was how comfortable in his skin Patinkin appears to be nowadays. He is a prickly perfectionist, but he seems finally to trust himself and his material. He doesn’t oversell, as he did in the days that earned him a spotlight parody in “Forbidden Broadway” as “Super-Frantic-Hyper-Active-Self-Indulgent-Mandy.” Aside from occasional indulgences in showy, chesty, buzzing-with-vibrato fortissimos, Patinkin spent most of the concert in focused stillness, suspending notes — softly, tenderly — in his impossibly high, pure upper range.”

Keyword: Stillness — if you have a spare minute, take a look back to my October posts.

For the last few months, I’ve been telling students to “lead the fun” in performance.

If your mantra is, “I am the leader of the fun,” your audience will pick that up and trust your leadership. If they’re going to heckle, they might as well leave, right?

If you abdicate your leadership of the fun, choosing instead to “push the fun up a hill from behind,” it all becomes work, obvious work, and no one has any fun at all.

“Pushing the fun up the hill from behind” is a performer waiting for the audience to start having fun first.

It’s a long wait…

It doesn’t matter if you like to sing big and loud (omg; “showy, chesty, buzzy”!) or soft and quiet (“impossibly high, pure upper range”).

Mandy Patinkin was just leading the fun.

Own yourself, you own the stage.

Lead the fun, the audience follows.

Stillness Pt. 2

Stillness shouldn’t be confused with “low energy.”

Having low energy is like driving your car around with the gas tank needle almost on “E.” You may or may not have gotten to your destination, but — guess what? — the trip was pretty stressful too…

Isn’t it amazing how many different ways we can find to take the fun out of performing?

What we really want to do is align our sense of stillness with the focus needed by an Olympic gymnast or weightlifter just prior to competing.

Focus and stillness are required for Olympic tasks. There is a job ahead. Now is the time to pull it all together and do something incredibly special.

In individual sports like gymnastics, weightlifting and singing, wasted motion is inefficient and unsustainable. Wasted motion can also lead to injury.

So, even in a vocal warm-up, moving our heads up and down on every note, flailing our hands and arms about, standing on our toes to hit the high notes, tweaking our heads to the left or right to do something or other; all serve to diffuse our focus of our human, living instrument.

For the athlete/singer it begins internally. To be world class, to gain that gold medal; body, mind and spirit must pull together to perform as a single unit.

If any of those three elements are absent, the best we can hope for is second place.

And whether we’re auditioning for musical theatre or doing eight shows a week on Broadway, second place ain’t it….!


We’re at a musical of some sort or other.

It’s the “Eleventh Hour” song.

Someone is going to sing something very important.

Some character is going to turn it around for themselves, finally coming to the realization that their approach to life, a relationship or an ideal was fatally flawed and now is the time to make a change.

This a pivotal moment.

Someone is going to “put together the pieces” right before our very eyes.


And learn “stillness.”