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Review of Maria Friedman sings Lenny and Steve

Maria Friedman
Maria Friedman

When Maria Friedman was developing her new cabaret show, she wanted to do only Stephen Sondheim songs and end the evening with “Somewhere” from West Side Story. However, her pianist Jason Carr said that’s not a Sondheim song, that’s a Leonard Bernstein song with lyrics by Sondheim – and that’s how Sings Lenny and Steve was born.

The show begins with a piano medley from Carr before Ms Friedman takes to the stage for a beguiling evening of songs and anecdotes. We get some On the Town “New York, New York” and “I Can Cook Too”, songs from Wonderful Town, the hilarious “One Hundred Easy Ways to Lose a Man”” and a moving anti-Vietnam War song “So Pretty” that Bernstein wrote for a 1968 Broadway For Peace concert.

Mixed amongst the Bernstein are some Sondheim classics such as ‘Losing My Mind’ (Follies), a tremendous rendition of “Being Alive” and a fabulous, breakneck version of “Another Hundred People” (Company), “Children Will Listen” (Into the Woods), and a moving version of ‘Send in the Clowns’ (A Little Night Music). One of the real standouts was a performance of what is probably Sondheim’s trickiest song, the tongue-twisting “Getting Married Today” from Company which Friedman sang perfectly – complete with bridal veil! There are also mash-ups where a Sondheim song segueways into a Bernstein song and vice versa.

Friedman tells us she’s delighted to be doing a residency at Zédel as she used to do a regular residency at the Café Carlyle in New York and she always enjoyed being in one place for a long run. The Carlyle is part of the Carlyle Hotel on Madison Avenue and the hotel is where Elaine Stritch lived. Stritch would come down and see Friedman do her act but would make a bit of a show of leaving when Friedman sang “Broadway Baby” from Follies which Stritch saw as her property. Friedman sang the song later in the set and we could see why Stritch couldn’t stand to hear someone else singing “her” song – and singing it so wonderfully.

As promised Friedman ended the show with a superb “Somewhere” before leaving the stage to a well-deserved standing ovation. She then returned to do a hysterical version of “Gee, Officer Krupke” from West Side Story complete with rapid-fire changes of wigs, hats, and accents – and some audience participation too. She ended a splendid evening with Bernstein’s poignant “Some Other Time” from On The Town before disappearing into the night to another standing ovation.

This is a wonderful evening at the best cabaret venue in London. Maria Friedman is a consummate performer and seeing her in such an intimate space makes it even more enjoyable. This is proper cabaret with all the elements that go into making such a wonderful evening. Friedman and the superbly talented Jason Carr (a Tony nominee in his own right) are terrific together. They’re Live At Zédel until May 20th – so go and have a wonderful night “On The Town”!

5 Star Rating

Review by Alan Fitter

Following her sell out Live At Zédel debut, Maria explores the work of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim in her critically acclaimed show, comparing and contrasting songs from their separate catalogues, as well as their joint masterpiece ‘West Side Story’. Songs include ‘New York, New York’, ‘I Can Cook Too’, ‘Losing My Mind’ and ‘Send In The Clowns’. Book fast for the four-time Olivier Award Winner as she returns to the West End’s most intimate venue for a three week run.

Maria will be joined by MD, Tony nominee Jason Carr

THE CRAZY COQS – BRASSERIE ZEDEL, LONDON

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