Words by Simon Button
She’s been hailed as Britain’s finest Sondheim interpreter, with the man himself singling her out as one of his favourite singers.
And to hear Maria Friedman belt out ‘Being Alive’ or perfectly nail the heartache of ‘Send In The Clowns’ is to fully understand why.
Bringing her new From The Heart show to a packed Queen Elizabeth Hall, this chanteuse with the richest of voices and warmest of spirits also gave us her wickedly funny take on Mrs Lovett from Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd and a word-perfect rattle through the tricky-as-hell ‘Getting Married Today’ from ‘Company’.
But Friedman’s latest song revue wasn’t just a salute to Stephen. She also paid tribute to Marvin Hamlisch with a couple of Chorus Line numbers and threw in some curveballs with a room-silencing a cappella version of ‘Tom’s Diner’ and a truly beautiful rendition of ‘Both Sides Now’.
It takes true talent, and indeed guts, to cover Joni Mitchell and make the song so hauntingly your own. And it takes chutzpah to give Streisand a stab, as Mariah did with ‘A Piece Of Sky’ from Yentl to quite stunning effect.
As a show, it lacked slickness. The lighting cues were all over the place in the first half, props took yonks to materialise and Friedman seemed awkward in wedged stilettos.
But she kicked off the shoes, laughed off the technical glitches and proved she’s not only a maestro when it comes to singing Sondheim - she can also wrap her wonderful voice around anything she fancies.
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