It’s apparently taken 16 years since her last performance there for the Norwich Playhouse to ask Maria Friedman back to perform again, but it is worth the wait as she delights the audience with a combination of her one woman cabaret shows. The West End and Broadway star has won acclaim for her solo shows and this type of show works perfectly in such an intimate space as the Playhouse.
For the first half we have repertoire from Blighty and Maria’s ‘Great British Song Book’ show and CD. Offering some surprises to those in the audience who are more familiar with Maria’s theatre work, but these were songs chosen to show of her skill in delivering a story through song. It is these songs with a strong emotional lyric that work best with a moving rendition of Alone Again (Naturally) particularly impressive.
The Beatles, Purcell, Vera Lynn all featuring in thia first half. Some of the arrangements are familiar but many have been specially rearranged by Maria’s musical director (and pianist) Jason Carr. Perhaps the war time medley audience sing-along doesn’t quite fit naturally into the programme but it was enjoyed by the enthusiastic audience.
Act Two moves to more familiar territory with material from musical theatre and, given her long association with the composer, an understandably strong focus on Sondheim. It is perhaps with this material that Maria feels most comfortable as she revels in both the lyrical and musical dexterity. Her Mrs Lovett is now a trademark of her concerts and was, as ever, full of comedic joy while moving onto A Little Night Music, her Send In The Clowns brought a tear to many eye. An encore of Broadway Baby demonstrates why Maria is considered by many to be the definitive exponent of his work.
There were a few slips of memory on the night with lyrics and at times some of the higher notes were strained but for sheer power of delivery and the ability to sell a song it is hard to beat Maria Friedman. Any student singer should go watch Maria perform for a masterclass in how to deliver a song. A heartfelt and enthusiastic standing ovation demonstrates that her return to Norwich was much overdue.