“Today is a dream come true for me,” screen and Broadway star Mandy Patinkin said from the Penn Charter stage on Sunday afternoon. “I’ve been waiting to do this for three or four years.”
In black jeans and gray sneakers, the veteran performer teamed with cellist Udi Bar-David, pianist Paul Ford, violinist Hanna Khoury and percussionist Hafez El Ali Kotain for “An Afternoon with Mandy Patinkin,” presented by Intercultural Journeys, now in its tenth season.
Intercultural Journeys board chairman Majid Alsayegh welcomed the packed house for a program juxtaposing and combining Arab and Jewish music, sprinkled with Broadway favorites, pop and a nod to rock idol Freddie Mercury.
“We hope today’s performance is an inspiration to each and every one of you and will inspire you to do your part in promoting harmony between cultures,” Alsayegh said.
Bar-David and Khoury began the show with an improvisational Arab-inspired piece. Bar-David explained after the applause, the song was called “Prayer for Peace,” Khoury then welcomed Kotain to the stage for a lively rendition of Moshe Vilensky’s “Hora Mamtera.”
After two Arab instrumental pieces, including Adham Afandi’s “Longa Shahnaz,” Patinkin and Broadway musician Paul Ford (original pianist for Sondheim premieres like “Sunday in the Park with George” and “Into the Woods”) strolled on from stage right.
Patinkin launched a rich, operatic rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” followed by emotional performances of “Cat’s in the Cradle” and “Over the Rainbow” that reduced some listeners in tears. Patinkin strolled the stage freely while he sang, dancing, kissing and embracing his accompanists.
Patinkin, a master raconteur, told the story of searching for a Palestinian musician to join him for a National Mall concert celebrating Israel’s 60th anniversary, and meeting Hanna Khoury, who has been a frequent collaborator every since.
Khoury tuned his violin onstage between segments, and Patinkin halted the show, begging an impromptu lesson on Arabic versus western tuning. “I use Arabic tuning when I play with Arabs. Non-Arabic tuning I use when I play with non-Arabic musicians. Secret recipe,” Khoury quipped, going on to demonstrate the different keys with the help of Ford.
Patinkin plied his voice again for an “Arabic medley” that he was singing in performance for the very first time. “Wish me luck,” he said.
Billed as a ninety-minute show, the stories and music crept close to the two-hour mark as the audience gave a standing ovation for Patinkin and the ensemble, demanding one last song.
After a show ranging from “Y’did Nefesh” to “Oklahoma,” the East Falls audience streamed out aglow over Patinkin’s talent, although at least one patron mourned that since it was St. Patrick’s Day, “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” wouldn’t have gone amiss.
“This organization’s goal is to show the world how different people make music. “Live in harmony. It’s that simple,” Patinkin told the audience.