Mandy Patinkin has an unbridled zest for life.
Whether he is talking about a morning walk with his dog or his extraordinary career as an actor, singer, and storyteller, Patinkin’s voice booms with enthusiasm.
The Tony and Emmy Award-winning star brings that joie de vivre to Tucson next month, performing his latest concert, “Being Alive,” at the Fox Tucson Theatre on Feb. 18.
He and accompanist Adam Ben-David have performed “Being Alive” across the U.S. and Europe since fall 2022 as an antidote to the dark days of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I just love it. It’s a wonderful injection of life,” Patinkin says. “We need to feel good about things — we need to do everything we can to improve the world — but we also need to feel good and to have some fun.”
He won’t divulge the “Being Alive” set list because he may change it from show to show, but he confirms there are Yiddish songs in the repertoire. Patinkin didn’t grow up speaking Yiddish but heard his parents and grandparents speak it. He started learning Yiddish songs at the urging of theater impresario Joseph Papp and in 1998 released an album of Yiddish tunes, “Mamaloshen” (the title means “mother tongue”).
Patinkin says his multifaceted career has made him “one of the luckiest guys on the planet.”
Besides being an entertainer, Patinkin is an ardent activist. He’s worked with the International Rescue Committee since 2015 to bring attention to the world’s refugee crisis, which has grown because of conflicts and climate change.
He’s on the board of directors of Americans for Peace Now, which he’s supported since the 1980s.
“I believe deeply in the work that we attend to, which is to bring about peace in the Middle East, a two-state solution,” he says.
To that end, he’s also involved with The Orchard of Abraham’s Children, “a beautiful organization” he encountered while filming the television series “Homeland” in Israel.
“It was a preschool at that time for Arab and [Jewish] Israeli children,” he says, and now serves as an inspiration for multicultural programs around the world.
There will always be outliers, whether individuals or organizations, who seek to commit acts of violence, Patinkin says, so we’ll always need stringent security systems to try to prevent those acts. But that’s no excuse not to make peace.
“It is in my prayers every day to stop the killing, the hatred, and the violence” in the Middle East and elsewhere “and to start the loving, the compassion, the forgiveness, and the understanding within ourselves, to ourselves, and to each other,” he says.
Even in the face of the current wars between Israel and Hamas, between Ukraine and Russia, and in so many other places, Patinkin refuses to give in to darkness.
“Talking about the possibility of peace to me is the lightest, brightest, most hopeful conversation any of us can have,” he says, adding his belief that even the smallest positive acts can add up “until one day, the world changes.”
Another thing that brings light these days to Patinkin and his wife of 43 years, Kathryn Grody, is their two-year-old grandson.
“He’s teaching us how to live every moment of every day. He’s so filled with joy and wonder and discovery,” he says. “It’s just incredible.”
Executive Director Bonnie Schock says the Fox Tucson Theatre is thrilled to host a performer of Patinkin’s caliber.
“His stage presence is simply stunning, and this intimate performance with just Mandy and accompanying piano invites audiences into something truly special,” she says.
Patinkin says he set out to be a serious actor, not a singer, so performing concerts has been “an unexpected gift.”
“If you said to me, ‘You know what, Mandy, you gotta make a choice – you can either do plays or films or television or recordings or podcasts or concerts, you gotta just pick one,’ there’s no question in my mind, I would pick the live concert venue.”
Tickets for “Being Alive” are available at https://foxtucson.com/event/mandy-patinkin/