BWW Interviews: Maria Friedman About Her Chickenshed Concert And MERRILY
It'll be a very special sold-out concert at Chickenshed this weekend when West End diva Maria Friedman takes to the stage for an evening of Sondheim.
"I could do several evenings of Sondheim!" she admits. "This will be a very varied programme, though - lots of laughs, lots of funny bits, and lots about children and the arts."
Chickenshed bills itself as an inclusive theatre company, and is famous for its work particularly with children of all backgrounds and abilities. Friedman has first-hand experience of its success because she's seen it work with her own son.
"Any parent with a child with difficulties knows how hard it is," she says. "I couldn't find a place that could make him happy, and Mary [Ward, Chickenshed's founder] said, 'I promise you, Chickenshed's the place to help him and help you.' And I just didn't believe it was possible."
She describes their first impression of Chickenshed as "one of the finest places in the world - people were rubbing along together in a really creative and positive fashion, and it's how the world should be."
After a settling-in period, Friedman's son started to join in with the sessions, and took part in an on-stage production after about nine months. "It was the first show he did there, and at first I couldn't see him on the stage, because he was doing what everyone else was doing - not jumping forward, or running off the stage, but joining in with the many, many dance moves. He came off the stage, and it was like he was inside a differnt person. I was so proud."
And he's continuing his success. "He now does a Btec course, he got two GCSEs, and nobody thought he could ever do anything like that."
So it's no wonder that Friedman agreed to do a concert there when she was invited. "They have a beautiful theatre, their own brilliant designers, it's a great space - it was more than an honour to be asked."
As well as singing, she'll be taking questions from the audience, but isn't phased by that, even though, as she confesses, "people do ask you the most outrageous things."
This autumn she'll be directing Merrily We Roll Along - yet another Sondheim - at the Menier Chocolate Factory. "It was something I was asked to do some years ago, and I said yes, and the time's just ripped by."
Casting is under way at the moment, and Friedman has nothing but praise for her collaborators on the creative team, and confirms that Sondheim himself will be involved at some point in the production.
The Chocolate Factory has had a huge reputation for doing Sondheim brilliantly on a small scale in recent years, with Sunday in the Park With George and A Little Night Music both getting West End and Broadway transfers. Will Merrily be doing the same? Friedman laughs. "I hope so!"
Find out more about Chickenshed at their website.