For Mandy Patinkin, the story is the thing.
“I’m an actor first, and that’s how I approach the material,” said Patinkin, who’ll perform Friday (June 24) in Tacoma. “I say the words, and they just happen to be on musical notes.”
Patinkin has had a long and successful career acting on Broadway, in films and on television. He’s a regular on Showtime’s “Homeland” and is beloved by more than one generation for his role as the revenge-seeking swordsman Inigo Montoya in 1987’s “The Princess Bride.” He’s won a Tony for his role as Che Guevara in 1980’s “Evita” and an Emmy in 1995 for his work in “Chicago Hope” on CBS.
On top of all that, he’s been touring since 1989 with a piano player (currently Adam Ben-David) and singing the stories he loves.
He’s been doing it on a grand scale.
“Theater and concert audiences have always indulged his excesses — his wild range from baritone to falsetto, his eagerness to wring each lyric dry, the slightly unhinged quality he can take on when the music overcomes him — and, make no mistake, these are integral to his power as a performer,” Alex Witchel wrote in a profile of Patinkin in the New York Times Magazine in 2013.
Although his career took off on Broadway, Patinkin doesn’t limit himself to musical theater pieces.
“It’s songs from the American Songbook and Broadway show tunes, but also other songs that tell stories,” he said in a recent phone interview.
That might mean Randy Newman, Tom Waits, Rogers and Hammerstein, Irving Berlin or Paul Simon.
It very likely means Stephen Sondheim, who seems to be mentioned at least once in anything written about Patinkin. The live album “Mandy Patinkin Sings Sondheim” was released in 2002, and Patinkin was nominated for a Tony for the role of George Seurat in Sondheim’s 1984 “Sunday in the Park With George.”
He’s passionate about the work of those whose lyrics speak to him personally. “I’m just the mailman for the geniuses,” he said. “I deliver their mail.”
There’s no guaranteeing whose mail he’ll deliver Friday night, though, since he culls each evening from 30-40 hours of material, choosing different songs from night to night and season to season.
“I never go to the theater without watching the news or listening to the news,” he said. “People in the audience are filtering these lyrics through what’s going on not only in their own personal lives, but what’s going on in the world we’re living in. I want to be on the same page.
“I promise there’ll be no discussion of politics, because I need a break.”
If he doesn’t separate his concerts from ensemble work for film or television, Patinkin does appreciate the direct connection he makes with the audience.
“The concert is the most immediate,” he said. “I’m with the audience, and we create the experience together. The audience is very much a character in the piece.”
Mandy Patinkin in Concert: Dress Casual
What: Singer-actor Patinkin, stage and screen star, performs standards, Broadway fare and more. He’ll be accompanied by pianist Adam Ben-David.
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday (June 24).
Where: Pantages Theater, 901 Broadway, Tacoma.
Information: 253-591-5894, broadwaycenter.org.