Just as Sinatra was known as the Chairman of the Board, Broadway star Mandy Patinkin recently had his own title bestowed upon him when he was billed The Grand Master.

But Patinkin, speaking from his Manhattan home on the eve of his first Australian tour, soon makes it clear the title does not sit comfortably with him.

I avoid paying too much attention to any of these things, the Tony Award-winner says. Please tell everyone who is coming to my concert to keep their expectations in the toilet. In that way, they won’t be disappointed, he adds with a chuckle.

I really am just a little worker bee. I just rehearse with my piano every day and then we show up and do the best we can. I am just grateful for the opportunity to be the mailman delivering the songs of these genius songwriters, and really am the furthest thing from a grand master you’re going to find.

Mandy Patinkin In Concert plays at the Opera House on 17 and 18 June. Patinkin, who starred on Broadway in Evita and Sunday In The Park With George, and on screen opposite Madonna in Dick Tracy and Streisand in Yentl, performs song highlights from his career as well as the works of his favourite composers.

I like to do all kinds of stuff and I don’t give you just the familiar stuff from the shows I have done, he says. I come out with my piano player Paul Ford and we do the songs of the great writers like Stephen Sondheim, Irving Berlin, Rodgers and Hammerstein and Paul Simon.

These people had a genius, either through music or lyrics, for telling what they wished for themselves and what they wished for the world. It is those qualities that we all get the benefit of.

Patinkin has earned a following for his performances on stage, in concert and in film, but also for his work on TV, including his Emmy Award-winning role in the hospital drama Chicago Hope and the new series Criminal Minds.

Married for 26 years to Kathryn Grody and the father of two adult sons, 53 year-old Patinkin has in recent years won as many admirers as he has detractors for his outspoken stand on a number of social issues.

In 1994, he spoke out against and helped raise money to fight anti-gay laws in the US state of Colorado. During the 2004 US election, he campaigned for Democrat candidate John Kerry in an effort to unseat George Bush.

More recently, he has actively supported a number of environmental causes, but it was since waging his own successful battle against prostate cancer that he has become a strong advocate for men having health checks for the disease.

I think we live in a time when the world is bleeding, he states. It is a precarious time for humanity all over the world and it is the responsibility of each of us to pay attention, to listen and see if there is anything we can do to move the healing process forward.

I remember early in my life saying to a friend, -˜I am not that political.’ He then replied, -˜Do you breathe? Well, the air you breathe is political.’ I got the point.

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Mandy Patinkin In Concert plays at the Sydney Opera House 17 and 18 June. Bookings on 9250 7777 or www.sydneyoperahouse.com.

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