Thirty-odd years working in the world of theatre have afforded Mandy Patinkin an easy affection for gay folk. When this scribe introduced himself as a writer for a gay and lesbian publication, Patinkin quipped, And which are you representing? The gay or the lesbian?

A little of both, I assured him.

Ah, that’s the spirit. God bless you for that!

Patinkin -” who younger audiences would most likely recognise from his TV work on Chicago Hope or Criminal Mind, but whom older fans would remember from films like Yentl and The Princess Bride -” returns to Australia this month for a series of concerts with fellow Broadway legend Patti LuPone. This tour marks the first time the two have performed on stage together since their breakthrough performances as the leads in the original Broadway production of Evita, exactly 30 years ago.

I informed him that his Melbourne and Sydney stints with LuPone have both sold out their first nights, and are well on their way to selling out a second. Surprisingly, he had no idea.

I’m very glad. You’re actually the first one to tell me, because I never ask those sort of questions. I usually don’t want to know. Who wants to be told that no one’s coming? You’ll find out sooner or later, he joshed.

Most of the time, when you walk out on stage, the lights are so bright you can’t see anyone in the audience. There is a section in this show where we’re bathed in blue light from behind. At that moment, the audience is also bathed in light, so it’s the one time in the show where I can see if anyone’s actually shown up.

Patinkin is effusive in his praise for LuPone (She’s just a glorious human being to perform with, I feel as lucky as can be, he gushed), and said fans of the their original pairing would find many nostalgic treats in the show -” in among songs from musicals like South Pacific and Carousel, LuPone sings Evita’s showstopper, Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.

What I say to people about the show is that it’s a figurative journey of two souls using familiar and unfamiliar material, both spoken and sung, he said, emphasising each word for dramatic effect.
Of course, a big part of that is just balls-out entertainment.

I asked Patinkin for his own theory on how he’s lasted more than three decades in such a competitive industry. His frank answer certainly showed he was born for the dramatic world of theatre.

It’s my identity -” I don’t know who I am unless I’m working and performing. It’s a drug and an addiction that I have…it’s my connection to being alive, he said.

The minute one show is over, I’m passionately searching for the next to immerse myself in. If I don’t, I’m without oxygen.

info: An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin plays the State Theatre, July 24 & 25. Details: ticketmaster.com.au

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