Maria Friedman's 5 night run at Live at Zedel was sold out some time ago, not surprisingly as this is the singer actress' first run of London concerts in 2 years. During that time she has been appearing in EastEnders and directing various theatre productions including the current tour of Stepping Out which comes to the West End next year. But cabaret is her natural home and for this series of concerts at the Piccadilly venue with her long-time collaborator Jason Carr, Friedman chose to reprise the Lenny and Steve concert featuring the music of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim. Explaining that she had originally wanted to do an evening of Sondheim music but end the show with the song 'Somewhere' from West Side Story, Carr had apparently insisted that as Sondheim had only written the lyrics to that song she would have to sing Bernstein too. It proves to be an effective combination.

Friedman is always an engaging singer, perfectly at home standing right in front of the audience and singing directly to them in this intimate venue. As always, Friedman's programme has considerable light and shade in the mix of songs chosen. Friedman is a natural comedienne who excels at putting over the witty lyrics of Bernstein's 'I Can Cook Too' from On The Town and dons a veil for Sondheim's 'impossible to sing' patter song 'Getting Married Today' from Company which Friedman claims she has never sung correctly! But Friedman is also good at conveying emotion right from the heart, and pairs an anti-Vietnam War song written by Leonard Bernstein which appropriately refers to safeguarding the White House with the always moving and truthful 'Children will listen' from Into the Woods.

Friedman has emerged as one of the foremost Sondheim interpreters in this country and indeed the world and gives considered versions of his classic 'Send in the Clowns' and 'Being Alive'. Sally's two torch songs from Follies, 'In Buddy's Eyes' and 'Losing my Mind' are layered with meaning by the accomplished actress, her face conveying both the meaning and heart of the song and the situation of the character who sings it almost like a one-act play.

As promised, Friedman ends her concert with 'Somewhere', the song of hope from Leonard Bernstein's ground-breaking musical West Side Story, and returns to the stage with a bag of props to sing another song from that classic show, 'Gee, Officer Krupke'. In a performance that has to be seen to be believed, she sings all the different character parts of the song, donning hats, wigs and glasses at different times. After this moment of high comedy, Friedman wisely leaves the audience with more emotion with the yearning lyrics of Bernstein's beautiful On The Town number  'Some other time'. With reports of a further Live at Zedel run next year, hopefully audiences will be able to 'catch up' with Friedman singing on stage again soon.