For some reason Phil turned up his proboscis at the opportunity to see Maria Friedman’s new concert show Re-Arranged at the Menier Chocolate Factory.
Heaven knows why. Her shows are always first rate. Unlike some other musical theatre divas, Ms Friedman clearly loves music and arrangements rather than just the sound of her own voice and her shows are always a cut above.
And how many times do you get to experience a 11 piece orchestra (playing 40-odd instruments)? Top notch players too. On violin was Oliver Lewis whose “phenomenal world record breaking speed in The Flight of the Bumble Bee is unmatched by any other violinist”.
In short: it’s real class. Perhaps that’s what didn’t appeal to Phil.
So Andrew took the altogether classier Oliver, Mark 1 and Paul in London along to drink in the eclectic mix of Jacques Brel, Kate Bush, Henry Purcell and Stephen Sondheim. There was a lot of Mr Sondheim because Ms Friedman and he are pals; in fact he is the godfather of one of her sons which rather makes Phil’s “I’ve got a letter from Stephen Sondheim” story hurtle even further into insignificance.
It would be churlish to pick out some highlights from the show: from the chirpy opening “Have to Sing My Closer” to the (almost) final song “Broadway Baby” (which nobody does better) it was one delight after another.
For every old MF favourite such as Kate Bush’s “The Man with a Child in His Eyes” or the Jacques Brel/Richard Stilgoe “Play the Song Again” there was a new delight such as the sweet but tear-jerking “I Won’t Mind” (music by Jeff Blumenkrantz, lyrics by Anne Kessler and Libby Saines) or Suzan Vega’s “Tom’s Diner”
Particularly impressive were “If You Go Away”,”If You Hadn’t, But You Did”, “Sunday in the Park with Dot”, “Somewhere” and a terrific “I Got Lost in His Arms” (Irving Berlin) accompanied by Mark Wraith on the guitar in an arrangement by William Lovelady.
The big crowd-pleaser is “The Worst Pies in London” complete with props and a sap recruited from the audience.
Disappointingly there was no programme, presumably because the songs are subject to change; it also avoids wrestling with that thorny question of how to handle the ridiculous pretence of encores, but you can catch up with the repertoire on Ms Friedman’s website where the musicians are also credited.
In short a terrific show, and any American show tune fans visiting London before it closes on 4 May should make sure they squeeze it in to their itineraries.
When the inevitable request came from Ms Friedman to be photographed with a real live Whinger, the role of photographer unfortunately fell to Paul who seemed unable to grasp neither the technology nor the artistry. Had there been a telegraph pole within the Menier bar he would doubtless have arranged for it to be apparently growing out of Ms Friedman’s head. The West End Whingers unreservedly apologise to Ms Friedman who really does not look this fuzzy in real life.
Anyway, Andrew fared a bit better behind the camera (he so obviously does not belong in front of it):