Maria Friedman has eight Olivier nominations, three wins, and many lead roles in UK premieres of classic shows under her belt, as well as screen acting and stage directing. ‘Legacy’ at The Menier Chocolate Factory reminds us that she really is one of the all-time great singers.
‘Legacy’ has a twofold meaning. It’s a concert tribute to the musical legacies of the late composers Michel Legrand, Marvin Hamlisch and Stephen Sondheim, all of whom Friedman counted as friends and collaborators. And it’s also a way of passing the torch to a younger generation, with the show featuring various guests including young people from the Royal Academy of Music in a fabulous choir.
The opening rendition of Sondheim’s classic ‘Being Alive’ is a brilliant showcase for the whole ensemble and setting a high standard for the night ahead. Two outstanding moments of the evening came from a stunning ensemble presentation of “Sunday” by the Royal Academy of Music choir, and Friedman’s 19-year-old son Alfie stopped the show with an intricately acted-through execution of “Franklin Shepard, Inc” from Merrily We Roll Along.
Also, the unbelievable Desmonda Cathabel from Indonesia will blow your mind, what a story and what a voice! She packed in her job during Covid and sent a tape to the Royal College of Music and won a scholarship. Desmonda sings ‘The Miller’s Son’ from Sondheim’s A Little Night Music with such conviction…..definitely one to watch!
Joining Maria as well is ‘old friends’ Ian McLarnon and Matthew White, who are both former collaborators of Friedman in Sondheim musicals, and who bring a wealth of experience to their performances.
Barefoot, and dressed in a simple black dress, there is absolutely nothing pretentious about Maria Friedman and what’s great about this show is with so many hits to choose from, the set list may change throughout the run.
Musical supervision is provided by Theo Jamieson on piano, accompanied by Paul Moylan on double bass and Joe Evans on drums. The arrangements of the songs in the hands of these accomplished musicians is sublime.
If you have any interest in musical theatre, you’ll be in heaven from start to finish. Maria’s warmth infuses every number and she delivers a masterclass in acting through song, even in this cabaret format. Every drop of emotion is wrung from the material, and her passion for performance is clear and a joy to witness. It’s a big night out in the tiny 150-capacity space of the Menier. Goosebumps all around.
Maria Friedman & Friends – Legacy plays at the Menier Chocolate Factory until 17 April 2022, with tickets available here.