By Neil Durham
WORTH A LOOK?: *****
WHEN?: Sunday 20 March 2022, booking to 17 April 2022
RUNTIME: 150 minutes (including 20-minute Interval)
There’s a lovely moment towards the end of this celebration of songwriters Stephen Sondheim, Marvin Hamlisch and Michel Legrand when its star Friedman, who worked with them all, encourages the audience to sing with the cast.
- Read on for reasons including how this is a heartfelt, joyous and celebratory warm hug of a show
She’s reflecting on the 2 years theatre lost to Covid and leaning into the desire for a shared and communal experience.
The show opens with Sondheim’s Being Alive from Company as if to emphasise that point and ahead of his Broadway Baby from Follies Friedman explains the song’s part in supercharging her career.
She was invited to take part in a gala of his work with just days to spare and contemplated turning it down. She took it but was heckled by an audience member unhappy Elaine Stritch wasn’t singing the song but Friedman used the knock to spur her on.
The lyrics of the song also rang true with her experience (‘My tiny flat/There’s just my cat. A bed and a chair Still I’ll stick it till I’m on a bill’) and she used the lesson to lean in to the song to inform her illustrious musical theatre career.
The ‘friends’ of the show’s title include Desmonda Cathabel who is definitely a name to look out for in the future. She sings solo and as part of a group including Friedman and recently moved from Indonesia to train at the Royal Academy of Music.
The cast also includes Friedman’s son, Alfie Friedman, who impresses as part of a group and performing the socks off Franklin Shepard, Inc from Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along. His mother delights in explaining he’s accomplished this without training or singing lessons.
We’re sat next to Friedman’s other son Toby in the audience and it’s touching that she also acknowledges him during thie big-hearted, warm hug of a show.
We particularly enjoyed her comic take on Nothing from A Chorus Line and the group number from that show featuring a revolving cast from the Royal Academy of Music Choir which changes each week to give the youngsters a taste of working on a London show is a nice touch.
Especially impressive is the upbeat and energetic dance number to Legrand’s The Windmills Of Your Mind which is rearranged by musical supervisor Theo Jamieson, who is the musical supervisor for the multi monsta-winning Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.
You will enjoy this this show if you like a good anecdote and Friedman has them in spades including a neat line in self-deprocating humour not least when the punchline of her joke is her physical resemblance to Susan Boyle.
This is a heartfelt, joyous and celebratory warm hug of a show that will be most enjoyed by fans of musical theatre which offers the chance to appreciate some terrific songs from the voice that was 1 of the picks of the top songwriters featured here to perform them.