The Friedman sisters Maria and Sonia are from a talented family; Sonia as one of the leading Theatre Producers in the World and Maria, a West End Musical star and director and it was wonderful to see her in concert at Live at Zedel, the Cabaret room Crazy Coqs, inside Brasserie Zedel, just off of Piccadilly Circus.
She has called this residency “From the Heart” and in this intimate venue you can see and hear that she means it. Every song is delivered and sold with all her immense theatrical experience and we can see in her glistening eyes how much the songs mean to her and how much she enjoys performing. This ninety minute show passes too quickly as she covers a variety of her favourite composers mixed with personal stories from her life. The songs tell of love, loss and reflect on our own humanity.
The set starts when she bursts into the room with Sondheim’s ‘If You Can Find Me, I’m Here’ from the musical Evening Primrose and while she says she is happiest at home in her jeans, we can see she loves being in front of an audience. She reflects on the people she sees around her Hackney home with a delightful arrangement of The Beatles ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and then composer Jason Carr’s (who is in the audience) song ‘Garden’.
She follows up, reminiscing about her friendship with the late Marvin Hamlisch and delivers ‘Nothing’ and a beautiful rendition of ‘At the Ballet’ from his hit musical A Chorus Line which she sang at his memorial. The mood changes with a fun duet with her pianist of Randy Newman’s ‘Short People’ and then reassures us that it is about prejudice.
She returns to Stephen Sondheim for a Passion medley which she sang at one her Cafe Carlyle appearances in America before a change of pace and style with the World War II song ‘Sister Susie sewing’ when she gets the whole audience singing along with a lisp to the tongue twister.
One of my favourite songs was Sondheim’s lament ‘Children Will Listen’ from Into the Woods which was packed with emotion and feeling. Maria has a charming style, even when she messes up the lyrics as she does in the song ‘If you hadn’t but you did’ by Kristin Chenoweth.
Her Musical Director for the show is the talented Theo Jamieson and she gives him plenty of profile before singing one of his latest compositions from a new work inviting us to “bathe in the words and music”.
The show draws to a conclusion with the excellent Joni Mitchell song ‘Both Sides Now’ and then ‘Papa Can You Hear Me?’ from Yentl, the Barbara Streisand film, before she returns for another Sondheim song ‘Goodbye For Now’.
It may be goodbye for now but we were left hoping that the Cabaret was just a warm up for a return to the West End Musical stage, where her abilities as an actress and a singer can be showcased to a wider audience. Perhaps a family reunion will see Sonia putting Maria centre stage again where she belongs .
Reviewed by Nick Wayne
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