Maria Friedman (b. Switzerland, March 19, 1960) is a musical theatre singer and actress who has appeared on both the West End (London) and Broadway stages as well as in musical shows on film and television.
Maria was born to a musical family in Switzerland, although she and her three siblings were raised in the United Kingdom. Her father Leonard was a violinist, her mother Claire a concert pianist and opera coach, and the children all played classical instruments. She had no formal training either in singing or stagecraft. Her first brush with the musical theatre came when she was nineteen: her boyfriend got a part in a British national tour of Oklahoma! and talked the producers into taking her along in the chorus. A bigger break came seven years later when she was cast in Blues in the Night, which won a West End Theatre nomination for Best Musical.
She next landed a part in The Ghetto at the Royal National Theatre, which won an award for Best Play from the Evening Standard. Here she met Jeremy Sams, her partner and father of her first child, Toby. Then in 1990 Maria Friedman played Dot/Marie in Sunday in the Park with George, her first Sondheim musical, winning her first nomination for an Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical. The show won two Oliviers outright. Maria proceeded to make Sondheim’s music her own, with Merrily We Roll Along to great acclaim in 1992, and Passion in 1996, which won her an Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical.
Maria Friedman by Special Arrangement in 1994 was her first one-woman show, and it won her an Olivier for Best Entertainment; Maria Friedman by Extra Special Arrangement was its sequel in late 1995, and this became the source for her first solo album.
The first ever London production in 1997 of Kurt Weill’s Lady in the Dark, starring Maria Friedman, won her another Olivier nomination and another Evening Standard Award. She went on to West End productions of Chicago and Ragtime (two more nominations). In 1999 Maria, as herself, narrated a video version of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with Richard Attenborough, Joan Collins, and Donny Osmond in the title role.
Most recently in the West End, Maria Friedman created the role of Marian Halcombe in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 2004 musical The Woman in White, taking it to Broadway in November 2005. The show, in both venues, was produced by her younger sister Sonia. Two weeks before the opening on Broadway, Maria underwent surgery to remove a cancerous lump in her breast, but returned bravely to open as scheduled. She was frequently absent, however, due to radiation treatments, and the show closed after 109 performances.
Maria has appeared on several television shows and on film as well. Her American debut CD, Now and Then, was released by Sony Classical in May 2006 to coincide with her third engagement at the Café Carlyle, whither she was invited by Stephen Sondheim and Barbara Cook. The disc contains songs recorded in London with full orchestra and new tracks recorded in New York, featuring a guest performance by composer Sondheim.