“Who Wants to Live in New York?” The wonders of three frenemies in Stephen Sondheim’s “Rolling Around.” Happily, Maria Friedman did. British singer and actor Friedman is directing a new version of the musical, which is set to open on Broadway. “Here, the elevator operator has just as much power as you do,” she said one day last week, sitting in a café behind Loeb’s Boathouse in Central Park. “It’s all like these witty, quick quips.” She snapped her fingers to emphasize her point.
It was a sweltering afternoon. The temperature is over ninety degrees, but Friedman has just completed nine hours of rehearsals with Daniel Radcliffe (Charlie), Jonathan Groff (Franklin) and Lindsay Mendez (Mary) to prepare for nine Transferred from the New York Theater Studio in mid-month (tickets sold out) to the Hudson Theater (limited screening), what I felt was not the humidity of the air in New York, but “human desire.” To her, yes, the noise, yes, the dirt, yes, the heat—oops, a rat! Friedman put her feet up and bravely continued her story.
In 1983, at the age of 23, she came to Manhattan for the first time. A boyfriend who had performed with Shirley Bassey as a dancer in the Bahamas sent her a cheap plane ticket with a stopover in the city. She asked the police how to get to the park. “Turn left, turn left, then turn left again,” she recalled. She delivered the joke in her best New York accent.
Her favorite part of Central Park is the lake. By her count, she paddled there no less than twenty-five times. But unfortunately, the rehearsal time was too long and she missed the opportunity for this day. All the boats were locked up, leaving the water in darkness, and then – oops, another rat!
This leads to a great acting story: Friedman was having dinner in the West End one night. A friend excused herself to the bathroom and came back to find her standing on a chair. She recalled, “He asked, ‘Are you singing ‘Happy Birthday’?'” I was like, ‘Maria Friedman is going to stand up and sing because it’s someone’s birthday?’Who are you joke I? Get me out of here! ‘ “She saw a mouse.
“Euphoria” is Friedman’s first time directing a Sondheim production, but her vocal epaulettes are well sewn. She originated the role of Dot in the London production of Sunday in the Park with George (Olivier nomination, 1991) and six years later collaborated with Fosca in Passion (win!) 》plays the jealous Mary. Have “fun” along the way. Directing the play allowed her to turn her sympathies toward Franklin. Of all the “Happy” characters over the years, Friedman’s is probably the best for the character, who is usually portrayed as the same kind of spineless wretch played by Alan Alda. “That’s the problem,” she asked. “What’s wrong with success? Why Won’t Do you want it?you think Sitting in the garage? They call it a sell-out. I call it success. “
Friedman and Sondheim, who died in 2021, were old friends. When did they meet? Friedman doesn’t date. “I was really the one who was most present,” she said. “I was so useless. The days went by and I was in it no matter what.” She first met the composer-lyricist when she played Dot in “Sunday.”
A connection begins to bloom. Sondheim looked after her. “I got sick one time,” Friedman recalled, “and I said, ‘Look, who knows what’s going to happen?’ “What did you say, old friend? Sondheim agreed to serve as godfather to one of her children. Friedman even has a rare “I stood up Sondheim and lived to tell the tale” story that took place on the same lake she sat next to. Boating with an older friend, she lost track of time and couldn’t find a taxi in the park. Sondheim loved her and forgave her. But which year? “So find out the year Marvin died,” Friedman said. She sang at his memorial service in town. (Hamlish, 1944-2012.)
Broadway’s “Merrily,” she added, was New York City’s “Merrily” plus “a notebook full of notes” — with fingers spread wide — that she and the cast had never mentioned before. And the budget is bigger. The stairs are now out as Franklin steps onto the gangplank to sail to Europe. “There was no rhythm before,” Friedman said. “Now I have the show I want to do.” Her next hope is not to direct another Sondheim but to sing him again. Her focus is on Mrs. Lovett in “Sweeney Todd.” She worried she was too old—Annaleigh Ashford, nearly twenty-five years her junior, was now baking pies on Broadway. But this is New York. “There’s a very good Mrs. Lovett in me,” she declared confidently. ❖