A diva in the prime of her life, Maria Friedman’s Legacy show directed by David Babani is one of those unmissable evenings in the theatre. With friends Ian Mclarnon and Matthew White, with whom she has performed with before, her 19 year old son Alfie, who has inherited her way with a song, and a young singer Desmonda Catabel, as well as a surprise guest or two, she held the audience entranced as she ranged through a repertoire of songs by Hamlisch, Legrand and Sondheim.It was a rare evening. Not only could everyone sing but one could hear the words unusual in musical theatre today when everyone aims for the sound design system assisted climactic yell and ignores the sense of a song.
Hardly anything is worth five stars but this evening certainly was one of them. The run is selling out fast so put in your bids now. The core of the show will be the same but the chances are that guest friends will vary. Last night it was Marvin Hamlisch’s widow who had a choice tale to tell or two as had Friedman. Early in her career she was called at the last minute to take part in a star studded Drury Lane Gala and had to sing Broadway Baby. Which was fine except that among the stars studding the evening was Elaine Stritch. When Friedman went on someone from the Gods called out – “Get off.We want Stritch.” There was nothing to do but sing and live the word. The result was a standing ovation and brought her to the attention of Stephen Sondheim with whom she was to work time and again.
But while she was the star of the show everyone got their chance to shine including the ensemble made up of members of the Royal Academy of Music Choir making the first appearance on the professional stage. Friedman has been at the Menier before so it was in a way a home coming. If one had to pick out one song it would be for me her rendering of Losing My Mind but her Broadway Baby was still a show stopper. Heaven knows what the other nights will be like but the chances are they will be just as good, just as warm and friendly. Five stars are for the really special evening and this really is special.
The Royal Academy of music Choir.
Musical Direction and Piano: Theo Jamieson.
Double Bass: Paul Moylan.
Drums: Joe Evans.
Director: David Babani.
Lighting Design: Paul Pyant.
Sound Design: Gregory Carke.
Movement: Ashley Nottingham.
Musical Arrangements: Theo Jamieson & Jason Carr.
Production photographs: Nobby Clark