Olivier Award-winning actor-singer-director Maria Friedman will make her return to the New York nightclub world with her solo show, Maria Friedman Sings Sondheim and Bernstein, for five performances September 19–23 at Feinstein’s/54 Below. All shows are at 7 PM.
The concert, which played a sold-out London run earlier this year, will make its U.S. debut September 18 at the Huntington Theatre in Boston, where her Olivier-winning revival of Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along also recently began performances.
Friedman won at 2006 Theatre World Award for her performance in the Broadway production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Woman in White. It was the first and so far only Broadway appearance for the London theatre artist.
Asked what brings her back to New York City at this point, Friedman told Playbill, “Any opportunity I can get to come to my favorite city and sing, I leap at, and Michael Feinstein is a friend of mine and I'm really excited to sing in his club.”
In particular, she will be saluting composers Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein, both of whose work she has performed on the London stage. “It's great music and great lyrics, written by quintessential New Yorkers.” The two writers collaborated on the musical West Side Story, with Sondheim supplying lyrics to Bernstein’s music. Sondheim also later supplied additional lyrics for a 1974 Broadway revival of Bernstein’s Candide.
Friedman said she will be singing “Somewhere” from West Side Story, plus “Losing My Mind” from Follies, “Send in the Clowns” from A Little Night Music, “Getting Married Today” from Company, “New York, New York” and “I Can Cook, Too” from On the Town, plus “a few gems I'd like to keep up my sleeve.”
She said she’s been singing the songs for years, especially Sondheim’s, and continues to find fresh insights into them. “That's the beauty of his work: depending on where you are in your life they will have a different resonance. I am continually discovering new thoughts and new angles.”
Friedman said she has happy memories of living in New York during her Broadway debut in Woman in White. “Living on the corner apartment of the 67th floor in the Lincoln towers, with Central Park on my left and the Hudson River on my right and Amsterdam straight down—and the amazing cast that made me feel a part of their community, and the incredible warmth of the audiences.”
A special memory was her nightclub debut at the Café Carlyle when Sondheim and the late singer Barbara Cook hosted her opening night. “I will never forget at the dress rehearsal my dear friend Barbara doing the sound for me and the genius that was [accompanist] Wally Harper focusing the lights, and the room being full of people I’d admired and loved from afar.”
Regarding her current production of Sondheim’s Merrily in Boston, she said, “Merrily has been an important part of my life since I played Mary in the original London production (although then I really thought the show was about her). Few things affect me as deeply as the friendships and journey that these characters go on—and any time I get the chance to work on Sondheim, I take it. When the Huntington offered me the opportunity to revisit the show, it felt like coming home. I've found incredible talent here in Boston and I can’t wait to share it with this community.”