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Clair, a concert pianist, marries Leonard, a lead violinist and Russian Jew. They subsequently move to Europe. When in Germany, and 15 years after the end of the war, Leonard changes the surname from 'Freedman' to the more Jewish form 'Friedman' - to make the point that he was a Jew living and working in Germany.


Maria was born in Switzerland on 19 March 1960 - German is technically her mother tongue. She has one brother, Richard, and two sisters, Sarah and Sonia. (They also have a half-brother, Benjamin. through Leonard's later, second marriage).

The family move to Germany when Leonard is offered a post with the Bremen Philharmonic. It is in Germany that Maria starts school - not the happiest of times for her and she claims adhesive tape was put across her mouth to silence her!

In the mid-sixties Maria's parent divorce and Clair along with the children move to England. Maria is five-years-old.

Leonard moves to Scotland and gets heavily involved with the Scottish classical music scene.


In the family home in North London, Clair struggles to support the four children. Maria was a promising cellist, but gave up due to "a lot of pain in my hands - I'm double-jointed" - it also needed too much practise!.

"There were no rules in our household, no bedtimes. You went to bed when you were tired and you ate when you were hungry."

Although she didn't really go to school a lot after she was 13 or 14 - admitting that she preferred an existence of cigarettes, cafes and parks - she did spend a brief time at Arts Educational School before leaving both school - and home - at 15 [possibly 16] to move into a bedsit in Muswell Hill, North London, with her boyfriend, Roland Brine, a dancer. She had been to 'atleast' seven schools.

Just prior to leaving home she had her first contact with a Stephen Sondheim musical when her father, Leonard, took the whole family to see the original London production of A Little Night Music at the Adelphi Theatre.

"My father had been to see it already. He came back and told us that he had discovered this extraordinary composer. He couldn't believe it. So he took us out to the theatre. Both my parents sat there with tears pouring down their faces."

Having basically dropped out of school she then did a succession of 14 or so jobs while she 'searched for a career'.

She worked as an au pair, worked in a pub, a delicatessen, a children's home, and as a kindergarten teacher. She also spent almost a year as the assistant manager of toys at London's Harvey Nichols department store before working for a shipping company and then as a receptionist at a music company:

"I wound up as a receptionist in a music company where I got on everyone's nerves by singing all the time. I told them I really could sing, and they'd say 'sure', but one day someone dropped out of a Marmite advertisement so I took over as a backing singer, but because I wasn't professional they didn't pay me."

She then auditioned as a singing waitress at a Beefeater restaurant:

"I sang 'The Way We Were' and didn't get the job, but a group of us rejects went to another audition as backing singers for someone called Vernon Nesbit, who'd had a hit in the Sixties and had a backing group called Sonnet [probably actually called 'Close Harmony']. To my complete bafflement, I got the job."

The job was to prove a turning point for Maria:

"We rehearsed in a basement in Victoria for three months with no gig in sight. His wife said: 'I see lace skirts, lurexy silvery tights and boob tubes,' and the next day we were in her net curtains dipped in black. I was only 18 but I looked geriatric with great big eyelashes. It all seemed so glamorous. We played strip joints and stuff, running between somewhere called Mayfair Connection and the Churchill Club and I sang 'Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh' to some tune and took it incredibly seriously. We toured Europe playing casinos and so on. I slept in baths and God knows what. When it was over I got home to find an Equity card popped through the letter-box. I'd never really had designs on being an actor but now that I had the all-important card I thought, 'well, I'll give it a go'".


With her Equity card in hand she went with her dancer boyfriend Roland Brine to auditions for the national tour of the musical Oklahoma! which was being co-produced by Cameron Mackintosh.

Roland was offered the job and he managed to persuade the producers to take Maria on as well, and thus Maria was cast as 'Doris' in the back row of the chorus.

Oklahoma! opened at the Leicester Haymarket Theatre in January 1980 before going on a major national tour which ended up, in September 1980, with a one year run in London at the Palace Theatre.

During a break in Oklahoma! regional tour, and prior to opening in London, Maria had her second contact with a Stephen Sondheim musical when she managed to see the newly opened musical Sweeney Todd five nights running at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

"It was as if someone had put me in a rocket at a very high velocity. The lights were switched on. I was completely determined to work with this man, although I had no idea how it would come about. It's odd really because he writes so much for sopranos. I'm not a soprano. So there I was listening to these top Cs and thinking that I could never be good enough. But that's what I aspired to."


In June, during the run of Oklahoma!, the cast stage a charity concert version of Minnie's Boys at The New London Theatre.

Towards the end of the run of Oklahoma! Maria understudies and plays the role of 'Ado Annie'.

From December to January 1982 Maria plays the role of 'Mary' in the 'musical-pantomime' Rock Star at the Civic Theatre, Chesterfield.


In May, Maria gets to play in her first Stephen Sondheim musical, when she plays one of the 'Geminae' in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum for a month at the Old Vic Theatre, Bristol.

In panto season, Maria plays 'Princess Melanie' in Jack and the Beanstalk at the Chichester Festival Theatre in Chichester, West Sussex. The cast is lead by Frankie Howerd and June Whitfield.


In September, Maria gets a part in the chorus for the new Tim Rice musical Blondel, which plays first in Bath and then Manchester before transferring to London's Old Vic Theatre in October for 2½months.


In January Blondel transfers to the Aldwych Theatre where it plays up to September.


Maria and her long term boyfriend Roland Brine marry.

Maria goes back to the Chichester Festival Theatre to play the role of 'Fanny Bridges' in Noel Coward's Cavalcade for two months from May.

In panto season Maria gets the lead role of 'Dorothy' in the The Palace Theatre, Westcliff-On-Sea, production of The Wizard of Oz.


In March Maria plays a lead role in the 'musical spoof' Small Expectations which runs for a very limited weekend season of performances at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London. Ronald Brine is in the chorus.

In May Maria gets a role in the Howard Goodall musical Girlfriends which plays for a three week season at The Coliseum, Oldham.

During the run of Girlfriends Maria comes down to London to join a large cast in the charity concert Young England at the Adelphi Theatre.


Maria secures the lead role of 'Janie' in the new musical Spin of the Wheel which has a try out in Watford in March prior to opening at London's Comedy Theatre in April. Maria gets good notices, but the show doesn't, and it closes after just four weeks.

Barely a month after Spin of the Wheel closes and Maria is back on stage - this time as 'The Girl With A Date' in the London production Blues in the Night which opened at the Donmar Warehouse in June. This time both Maria and the show get good notices and, after a limited one month season at the Donmar, Maria transfers with the show to Piccadilly Theatre where it plays for ten months.

In August, before the show transfers, the original cast are re-united at the Donmar for the cast recording which is recorded live before an audience.


After leaving the cast of Blues in the Night, Maria goes to the Greenwich Theatre in South London in March to play in John Bishop's comedy spoof The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940 for a six week season.

Maria then joins the four strong cast of Leonard Gershe's romantic comedy Butterflies are Free as the 'love interest' opposite the Australian actor Peter O'Brien for a major No.1 regional tour which lasted into 1989.

"I had an agent who filtered auditions for me but not someone who could guide my career. So I just took the jobs I was offered. They weren't all singing jobs. I had done lots of straight theatre before, but I never got auditions with the big companies, so I did the less exciting stuff, things like Butterflies are Free"

While appearing in Butterflies are Free, Maria joins the cast of the charity concert Sondheim A Celebration held at London's Playhouse Theatre in October. Maria and Linzi Hateley sing 'Broadway Baby' from the Sondheim musical Follies (which was then running at the Shaftesbury Theatre). The concert was so popular that it was staged again the following month.


In April Maria goes to London's National Theatre to play Hayyah in Joshua Sobol's play Ghetto which includes songs translated and arranged by Jeremy Sams. The play runs in repertory up to November.

"It was after Ghetto that I decided I was passionate about what I did and that I didn't want to do anything else."

In June, at the last minute, Maria is asked to step in and sing 'Broadway Baby' at the Being Alive gala concert at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Sondheim sought her out after the performance to congratulate her, then, unbeknownst to her, came to watch her in Ghetto. With Sunday in the Park with George in the early stages of preparation, he suggested her for Dot/Marie and guided her through a rigorous series of auditions until Steven Pimlot, the director, agreed to cast her.

"[Stephen Sondheim] found me at the party afterwards and said: 'Who are you?' Not much of an opening line, but I thought I'd died and gone to heaven."

The 'Backwards' episode of the cult spoof sc-fi series Red Dwarf that Maria had taped is broadcast in November.


Maria records the role of 'Petra' in a new studio recording of the Stephen Sondheim musical A Little Night Music in March.

Maria appears in Cook's Tour, a gala charity concert celebrating Ray Cook, held at the Shaftesbury Theatre in March.

Maria plays her first leading role in a Stephen Sondheim musical - as 'Dot/Marie' in Sunday in the Park with George which opens in March at the National's Lyttelton Theatre, it plays a straight run up to June.

In March the television series Omnibus broadcasts Sunday in the Park with Stephen which includes a section on the National's production of Sunday in the Park with George.

Maria's first major interview appears under the heading A Girl Named Maria in the The Daily Telegraph Magazine in April.

At the Hampstead Theatre in North London Maria play 'Maria Luisa Ancízar' in The Day You'll Love Me for 1½ months from August.

In December Maria plays the role of 'Marta' in a charity concert performance of Stephen Sondheim's Company which was performed along with Kander and Ebb's Chicago at the Victoria Palace Theatre.

BSB Satellite television broadcasts the pilot episode of the new sitcom Heil Honey I'm Home which includes Maria in the cast.


In January Maria appears at the Kids At Heart charity concert at the London Palladium.

Maria records the studio 'concept' recording of Off the Wall.

She records Peer Gynt for the radio. This is broadcast on the BBC World Service.

Maria becomes a 'household' name, appearing as 'Trish' in the top rated television series Casualty in episodes broadcast from September to February 1992.

"I loved the year I spent in Casualty and wish, with hindsight, that I'd stayed longer."


In April Maria appears in another Stephen Sondheim show, this time the 'backward' musical Merrily We Roll Along, for a month at the Leicester Haymarket Theatre. The production is recorded and is released as a 'full' double CD version and a 'highlights' version.

"It was the first time I realised [Stephen Sondheim] had a wicked sense of humour - he gave everybody a first night card and I opened mine and it was a picture of him and George Furth, who had written the book, standing outside the Leicester Haymarket Theatre and on it it said 'Dear Maria, out of the entire cast you are the best'. I just went to heaven and back, but I thought I can't put this on my mirror because everybody will think I'm too vain, so I put it back into my little envelope and then I looked around the dressing room and everybody had their little brown envelopes hidden or in their bags and I went into the boys dressing room and in the bags, nobody had anything up until I got to the very end with the dressing full of the ensemble and their was one extremely ambitious girl who had it wapped up on her mirror - and she had exactly the same thing written - every single one of us had exactly the same, the entire cast."

Maria returns to the National Theatre in September to play in Square Rounds which runs in repertory up to January 1993. During this time she appears at the charity concert A Time To Start Living - a tribute to Elisabeth Welch - which is staged at the Lyric Theatre in December.


In April the television programme The Complete Guide to Relationships which includes Maria in the cast is broadcast.

In May Maria performs at the Sondheim At The Barbican concert which is broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.

Tony Harrison's ScreenPlay television programme Black Daisies For The Bride in which Maria appears is broadcast in June.

Maria travels to the Scottish Island of Mull at the end of June to take part in the Mendelssohn on Mull Music Festival which her father, Leonard, had established. She performs in a series of concerts.

"In the evenings we would perform songs with whoever was available on the day. It depended on which musicians were playing in a concerto, or quartet, or whatever. In the mornings we would find out who was going to be around and then do the arrangements accordingly. There was a good deal of busking, and a lot of scribbling the arrangements on paper right up until the last moment, but the results were invariably very exciting and gloriously unpredictable."

The first episode of a new television series, Frank Stubbs Promotes, is broadcast in July. This episode includes a guest appearance by Maria.

In November Maria goes into the recording studio to record the lead role of 'Sally Bowles' in a new recording of Cabaret.


Maria joins Gary Olsen in the John Gobder 'two-hander' April in Paris at London's Ambassadors Theatre from February for three months.

Having been spotted by the Director of London's Donmar Warehouse at the Mendelssohn on Mull Music Festival in 1993, Maria gets to perform three solo shows - By Special Arrangement - at the Donmar on Sunday evenings in February and March - one of the concerts is recorded and broadcast on BBC Radio 2.

Maria is a guest presenter on The Charter 88 Bad Government Awards which is broadcast on television in May.

Following her three critically acclaimed concerts at the Donmar Warehouse, Maria gives her second major newspaper interview in The Times Newspaper Saturday Magazine in May under the title Back to her Roots - the interview promotes her three-week return engagement at the Donmar Warehouse.

Maria's father, Leonard, dies on 11 May, aged 63.

"I'm lucky in that I can put pain into my songs. It's a gift I got from him and my mum and probably from generations before them. For me, music is a need, I have to do it."

Less than two weeks after her father's death, Maria returns to the Donmar Warehouse to reprise her solo show By Special Arrangement for three weeks.

In August Maria gives birth to a son, Toby. The father is Jeremy Sams.

In October Maria joins the cast for a concert performance of Schumann's Manfred which forms part of the Deutsche Romantik Festival at London's Royal Festival Hall.


At the 1995 Olivier Awards Maria wins her first Olivier Award for 'Best Entertainment Award' for her solo show By Special Arrangement.

Promoting her upcoming season at the Whitehall Theatre, Maria gives two major newspaper interviews: Star Life: Maria Friedman in The Daily Telegraph and She's done it her way in The Times.

Maria Friedman by Extra Special Arrangement opens at the Whitehall Theatre in May and runs for six weeks.

Maria records her self named solo CD, featuring songs that formed part of her By Extra Special Arrangement show.

Towards the end of the year Maria promotes her solo CD by appearing on the lunchtime television chat show Pebble Mill, she sings 'Now and Then'.

In October Maria goes to the Haymarket Theatre Leicester to perform in Timberlake Wertenbaker's play The Break of Day for Out Of Joint, following a short tour it ends up at the Royal Court Theatre in London for a two month season ending in mid-January 1996.


Maria stars opposite Michael Ball in the Stephen Sondheim musical Passion which opens in Plymouth in February before touring to Manchester and Nottingham prior to opening in London's West End.

Maria gives a brief interview to The Independent newspaper in February under the title Between the Lines where she discusses how the composer Stephen Sondheim changed her life.

Passion opens at the Queen's Theatre in London in March and continues to play up to September.

In April, promoting the musical Passion, Maria gives a major interview in The Independent: Nights of passion with one really bad, bad girl.

In July, while appearing in Passion, Maria plays the role of one of the narrators in a concert performance of Kurt Weill's The Silver Lake which forms part of the Proms Festival at London's Royal Albert Hall - the concert is broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.


At the 1997 Olivier Awards Maria wins her second Olivier Award, this time for 'Best Actress in a Musical' for her role in Passion.

Maria performs at the Jack Tinker tribute charity concert Jack in Review at the London Palladium in February.

In March Maria leads the cast in Kurt Weill's musical Lady in the Dark at the National Theatre. It plays in repertory up to August.

Promoting Lady in the Dark Maria gives a major interview in the theatre magazine Applause in March.

Maria reprises her role in the musical Passion with most of the original cast members for a week long series of concerts in June, in London, which are recorded for the production's Cast Recording.

In July the cast recording of Lady in the Dark is recorded.

The Fall issue of Show Music Magazine features a major interview with Maria called Making Up Her Mind.

In November Maria is featured as one of the guest singers at Barbara Cook's concert at London's Royal Albert Hall.


Maria was one of the readers in a series of five twenty minute radio programmes celebrating the Bertolt Brecht Centenary which where originally broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in February.

Maria takes part in a Hanns Eisler Day concert in May at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London.

Maria takes part in two charity concerts Sondheim Tonight at the Barbican Concert Hall in London in May.

In June Maria takes part in the Royal Charity Gala Hey Mr Producer at London's Lyceum Theatre.

In September Maria replaced the originally scheduled Ute Lemper in the 'late night' prom German Cabaret Songs at the Royal Albert Hall.

In the middle of November Maria takes over the role of 'Roxie Hart' from Ruthie Henshall in the musical Chicago at London's Adelphi Theatre for a seven month season up to June 1999.

"I thought they'd gone insane when they asked me. It's a show full of sexy, slinky, gorgeous, leggy people. Which is not the way I, or anybody else, has ever perceived me."

In December Maria gives an interview to The Guardian newspaper - It's my show and I'll sing what I like - promoting her run in Chicago.


In January, and on the back of appearing in the musical Chicago, Maria gives a brief interview to The Independent newspaper - Our Working Life: The secret of my Success.

After leaving Chicago Maria takes on the role of 'Narrator' in the video version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat which is released later in the year. The video will be instrumental in bringing Maria to a far wider audience, both in the UK and world-wide.

Following a four month break, Maria returns to playing 'Roxie Hart' in Chicago at London's Adelphi Theatre for a further four months, by time she left the show in mid February 2000 she had been in it for eleven months in total.


In April Maria, along with the lead cast members of the new musical The Witches of Eastwick, performs an extract on the television show Tonight at the London Palladium.

At the Royal Albert Hall in May Maria performs at the charity concert The Greatest Love Gala.

In the run up to The Witches of Eastwick opening Maria gives a number of newspaper interviews: In June The Times prints the article Honing her witch craft while in July The Independent prints the brief article Theatre Debut: Maria Friedman and The Daily Telegraph prints an interview under the title Wicked Witch of the West End.

The new musical The Witches of Eastwick opens at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in London in July.

Two days after opening the one hour documentary The Making of The Witches Of Eastwick is broadcast on television.

The Independent prints an interview with Maria under the title How do I look? in August.

The cast of The Witches of Eastwick record the cast recording in September

The cast of The Witches of Eastwick appear on the annual television fund raising event Children in Need in November.


The Witches of Eastwick continues at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane up to the end of February and transfers to The Prince of Wales Theatre a month later.

Maria appears at the charity concert Midsummer Classics at the Royal Albert Hall in June.

Maria leaves the cast of The Witches of Eastwick at the end of June.

In September Maria appears at the Proms in the Park in Hyde Park.


In January Maria makes a guest appearance on the television series In Deep, and she is also on the radio in a play called Swan Song.

Maria presents a new solo show at the New Ambassadors Theatre in April which she promotes with an interview on on the radio programme Woman's Hour.

Maria appears in the charity concert Night of 1000 Voices at the Royal Albert Hall in May which celebrates the lyrics of Tim Rice.

In June Maria joins Henry Goodman, Ruthie Henshall, Philip Quast and Gary Wilmot in the Oh, What A Beautiful Evening! recorded for radio broadcast celebrating the centenary of Richard Rodgers.

Maria gives birth to her second child - Alfie - in July (August?).

In October Maria takes part in the European concert premiere of the musical Ragtime in Cardiff. The concert is broadcast on television.


In March Maria stars alongside Dave Willets and Graham Bickley in the musical Ragtime at London's Piccadilly Theatre.

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