Maria Friedman: Rearranged

Published December 5, 2008

Maria Friedman journeys through her years as a musical theatre star in the course of this 90-minute evening of tunes, accompanied by a live band.

Friedman originated the role of Dot in Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday In The Park With George in London and has enjoyed a long friendship with the American composer, hence his work dominates this concert in which Friedman sings new arrangements of her favourite tunes. Accompanied by a band comprising many of her long-time collaborators, who between them play around 40 instruments in the course of the evening, Friedman jumps between Sondheim, fellow musical theatre composers Andrew Lloyd Webber and Leonard Bernstein, while visiting Suzanne Vega, Randy Newman and even Purcell along the way.

In an evening of huge variety, Friedman displays the versatility that has sustained her career in musical theatre by switching easily from genre to genre, emotion to emotion. She is the lovelorn, unhappy Dot once more as she sings Sunday In The Park With Dot, before later transforming into the brash Mrs Lovett in Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd for The Worst Pies In London. She sings a heartfelt Somewhere, from Bernstein and Sondheim’s West Side Story, before recreating the painful desire for stardom in a funny and touching rendition of Broadway Baby.

Elsewhere in the programme, Friedman sings an unaccompanied version of Vega’s Tom’s Diner and an unusually arranged interpretation of Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell’s You Are My Sunshine. Comedy comes in the form of Charles Strouse’s I Want To Sleep With You Now – helped by the sporting participation of one audience member – and Newman’s Short People.

Chatting between songs and revealing something of the inspiration for her song choices, Friedman succeeds in making the steeply raked space of Trafalgar Studio 1 seem relatively cosy, and reveals a practised, but adept talent for making her audience feel comfortable. This is a relaxed evening, but also an emotional one, thanks to Friedman’s talent for getting straight to the heart of the songs she sings.

CB