Review – Maria Friedman “Re-Arranged”, Menier Chocolate Factory

Friday 21 March 2008

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.

Maria Friedman

Anyway, Andrew fared a bit better behind the camera (he so obviously does not belong in front of it):

14 Responses to “Review – Maria Friedman “Re-Arranged”, Menier Chocolate Factory”

  1. mark I Says:

    Great evening out. Any fans of precision percussion should go just for the pleasure of watching Dan Gresson, who’s attention to detail throughout the 2 hour plus set is almost frightening.

    He gets to play well over half of the quoted “40 plus instruments”, spread in three stations along a narrow runway at the back of the stage, and, in despite the time/space constraints of moving between them managed to make the whole performance look effortless. Every sound finished exactly when he wanted it to, and it was one of the most impressive and careful performances I’ve ever seen.

    Of course, everyone else was great too, but Dan did amaze me.

    PS Thanks for organising this evening, Andrew.

    Mark I

  2. Whingers, I appreciate the very forthright admonition. You will be pleased to note that I have secured my ticket for the show, although I was perplexed that it appears to be general admission seating – is that correct? Also, do they actually serve chocolate with cabernet?

  3. Saw this last night and agree whole heartedly – and wonder how we’ve managed to miss each other again.

    And the poor, poor bastard who had to go up for “Worst Pies”. I’m not sure if I felt more sorry for him or for Maria F. who had been forced to break down laughing twice in one evening.

  4. JohnnyFox Says:

    The hat’s terribly Mo Mowlam, isn’t it …

  5. Helen Smith Says:

    Phil’s proboscis? Is that why he always keeps his hands in front of his face in photos?

  6. Jon Says:

    nice review, but I think you’re slightly generous about the show itself… personally, I wasn’t sure about the repertoire and would have liked slightly fewer slow songs, and slightly more humour…

    also would have been nice to either have a song list or at least introductions to the songs, particularly the lesser-known ones.

  7. Hey the low lighting and slight blur looks great… Takes years off your ages! 😛

  8. @ SOB. Well done on the tickets. The “general admission” is a big, big problem and naturally the subject of much whinging and whining. For more information and hints the scrum process, see practically all of our previous Menier production reviews. Sadly, there is no actual chocolate but there is a little museum of old chocolate-making implements. And an art gallery. And a lovely restaurant/bar.

  9. Jon Says:

    btw, in case you’re interested, I posted a full review on my blog at

  10. Thanks so much, Andrew. I’ll go back and read your other Menier reviews.

    You do know that ever since 1979 when The Who had a general admission concert in the States in which 11 fans were trampled to death, general admission became nearly obsolete. (You’ll be interested in knowing that the tragic incident occurred in Cincinnati, Ohio while Jerry Springer was its mayor — coincidence?!).

    But I digress. I look forward to seeing the show and checking out the lovely bar. Thank you for your recommendation.

  11. Jarlath Says:

    Whingers, you’ve gone soft in the head. I hated it. She is so suburban droning about her bloo*y kids with painfully unfunny anecdotes and the stuff about what a close friend Stephen Sondheim was was stomach churning. The man also used to be friends with people like Katherine Hepburn………….

    Ms Friedman has a glorious voice, perfect diction and knows how to carry a toon but why oh why (as they say on Points of View) didn’t somebody, the director, the producer, a mate, tell to just shut up and sing. Compare her innane chatter to someone like Barbara Cook who when she has something to say, scripts it beforehand and keeps it short and also confines her comments to her personal insights into the material and the work of the songwriters not the minutae of her domestic arrangements.

    I’ve been telling all my friends about how good your blog is, loved the skewering of the latest Yasmina Reza nonsense, but I have to part company with you on this one.

    Nevertheless keep up the good work!

  12. April Small Says:

    I loved the show. Please can someone tell me if its on CD, and what the Purcell arrangement it was she sung please


  13. @ April: A few of the songs are on Now and Then.

    The Purcell was Dido’s Lament; lyrics by Nahum Tate; arranged by Chris Walker.

  14. April Small Says:

    Andrew thats lovely Thank you. Did you enjoy the show?

    Would I be able to get that arrangement do you think?


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