Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Maria Friedman: Re-arranged (The SOB Review)

Maria Friedman: Re-arranged (The SOB Review) - Menier Chocolate Factory, London, United Kingdom

***1/2 (out of ****)

Seldom during the course of a generation does a bona fide singing actress of the stage come along who's not only an exceptionally powerful and soulful interpreter of others' tunes, but also effortlessly exudes a forceful, yet plucky charm.

On this side of the Atlantic, we're currently blessed with legendary greats like Patti LuPone and Bernadette Peters.

However, on the other side of the pond, the British have their own national treasure in Maria Friedman, an amazing pillar of fortitude and grace. This unusually gifted talent is also a three-time Olivier Award winner who's headlining her own triumphant show Maria Friedman: Re-arranged at London's intimate Menier Chocolate Factory through May 4.

Thanks to the strong recommendation from the West End Whingers, I plucked down a mere $40 for a general admission ticket and found that it was by far the best deal to be had during my entire stay in London last week (the value of the beleaguered U.S. Dollar could not have been worse, with a single Tube ride fetching $8).

While Broadway audiences had but one chance to see Friedman in the short-lived Andrew Lloyd Webber musical The Woman In White, the actress has enjoyed recurring gigs at the Big Apple's Café Carlyle. So when I went into the Menier, I fully expected a cabaret act.

Much to my pleasant surprise, I was delighted to walk out having witnessed a series of fully-realized vignettes with Friedman masterfully telling complete stories through her expressive eyes and beautiful voice. Highlights range from Stephen Sondheim's emotionally taxing and tearful "Sunday In The Park With Dot" and the bittersweet medley of Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner" mixed with Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell's "You Are My Sunshine" to Michel Legrand's rousing "Le Trombone" and Randy Newman's irony-laced and incredibly funny "Short People."

My personal favorite moment of her performance was her frenzied wink and nod rendition of Sondheim's "The Worst Pies In London," which was immediately followed by a rather jazzy, Pink Pantherish take on "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd" by the fine 11-piece orchestra, under the direction of Michael Haslam and Chris Walker.

Sure, some of the tunes in Re-arranged border a tad on the treacly side, but the remarkable fervent clarity with which Friedman comports herself on each and every song will leave you on an emotional high. If you live in London or happen to be there over the upcoming weekend, make Maria Friedman: Re-arranged your destination.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
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What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life? (April 23, 2008)

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At 30 April, 2008, Blogger Sarah B. Roberts said...

Oh, SOB, just give her the other 1/2 *!!!! I just love Maria. Seeing her at the Carlyle (my first trip there) is a wonderful memory. I hope we get her back very, very soon.

At 01 May, 2008, Blogger Esther said...

Eight dollars for a single Tube ride?! That's outrageous!

Did you have any chocolate at the Menier Chocolate Factory?

At 01 May, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am pleased you had a great time listening to Maria....great to know her health has improved to allow her to continue her career and share her talents with many....
I remember you asking me "what" the Menier Chocolate Factory was a few years back............and I explained how the former factory had become a performing space rather than just sit empty.......

At 01 May, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Sarah, Sorry, it came close, but no cigar.

Having said that, I truly hope American audiences get another healthy does of Maria Friedman soon.

Esther, I had no chocolate at the Menier. Maybe next time. And yes, $8 or 4 quid for a Tube ride is outrageous.

Gene, Thanks for providing me with my initial primer on the Menier. My only quibble with this intimate theatre is that seats are unassigned, perhaps because they employ the use of padded benches.


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