After a sold-out run at Live at Zedel earlier this year, Maria Friedman returned with her cabaret act titled From the Heart at the Queen Elizabeth Hall for one night only.
The evening comprised of stories and songs by composers and colleagues that Friedman has worked with over her long lustrous career, including scenes from her most recent endeavour on Fiddler on the Roof in the West End.
Maria Friedman has done it all when it comes to showbusiness. She is a three-time Olivier Award-winning actor and director known from her work in the West End and on Broadway, recording artist, favourite of the famous cabaret rooms around the world, and on your TV you could have even seen her in EastEnders. So it comes as a no surprise that the Queen Elizabeth Hall was packed to the brim with eager fans of musical theatre and music.
For this cabaret evening, Friedman was joined by musical director Theo Jamieson on the piano. She explained to us that anyone able to put up with the chaos that is her life, is worth keeping. Jamieson certainly kept the evening together with his talented musicianship, as the setlist represented her earlier description. We bounced from baking pies in The Worst Pies in London to the aspirations at the dance studio in At the Ballet, and explored lyrical pop music through Suzan Vega’s Tom’s Diner and Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now. The evening suffered some lighting technical difficulties, plunging the artiste into darkness mid-song a few times, that not only affected the audience but the performer too, which sadly enforced the slightly chaotic atmosphere with all the chair choreography and missing props added to mix, something more easily forgiven in a cabaret room.
Friedman is a fearless performer who embodies each song with her full body and soul, taking us on emotional journeys we might have never been on with some of these classic songs. This is what makes her truly an exciting performer to watch. Her voice might have lost some of its higher notes but nowadays it has more warmth and maturity than in some of her previous cabaret appearances. She has always excelled with the delivery of Sondheim, last night she reinvented Send in the Clowns with her restrained rendition of the classic, but she also possesses the ability to make you listen to popular songs you know from the radio and make you feel like you hear the lyric for the first time.
This evening showcased what Maria Friedman does best, tell stories through song, but having seen her many times before, this performance made me long for the intimate cabaret room setting.
Review: Jari Laakso