This enchanting celebration of work by Marvin Hamlisch, Michel Legrand and Stephen Sondheim is certainly worth catching for the range of music and stories that are shared.
What a heartwarming and affectionate evening of music and stories this was to witness. Maria Friedman is certainly a wonderful storyteller and of course performer – but also by surrounding herself with plenty of future talent – she also ensures that the work of the three great composers celebrated here is given a new chance to shine which is how they would probably want it (with Stephen Sondheim having donated a lot of money to support the work of new composers as we are informed).
Directed with great intimacy by David Babani, Maria Friedman and Friends: Legacy is fascinatingly insightful and feels as much as musical theatre education as it is a celebration. With musical direction by Theo Jamieson (who is also on piano), there are some really gorgeous arrangements of songs including a really jazzy version of Michel Legrand’s ‘The Windmills of Your Mind’ and a beautifully haunting version of Marvin Hamlisch’s ‘The Way We Were’ – much care and thought has gone into the way in which these songs are performed.
While each composer is given a chance to shine, it is really (and unsurprisingly) the work of Stephen Sondheim that really dominates the evening. Upcoming singer Aoife Dunne gives a really playful and enjoyable performance of “I Know Things Now” from Into the Woods that is just one example of the need to support and nurture upcoming talent – enhanced further with a selection of songs from Sunday in the Park With George which is staged beautifully and gorgeously supported by vocal talents of The Royal Academy of Music Choir. Elsewhere, Alfie Friedman’s rendition of “Franklin Shepard, Inc” from Merrily We Roll along manages to leave everybody speechless and there is an absolutely brilliant version of “A Little Priest” from Sweeney Todd performed with great flair by Maria Friedman and Matthew White.
The way in which the some of the bigger songs are staged adds a sense of theatricality, allowing the audience to be completely absorbed by the characters and music. Yes there are moments when it feels a little bit self-indulgent particularly towards the end, but structurally the show has been well put together and features some memorable performances from all involved.
The work of Theo Jamieson, Paul Moylan (double bass) and Joe Evans (drums) throughout the evening is of course a real pleasure to listen to as well – showing their great depth and understanding for each composer’s work in a show that flows nicely between music and storytelling – making for a nicely relaxed evening.
This is a show worth catching if you have ever wondered what it was like to work with three great musical theatre composers and a chance to hear some of their best known pieces live.
By Emma Clarendon
Maria Friedman and Friends: legacy continues to play at the Menier Chocolate Factory until the 17th April 2022.