Maria Friedman

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Maria Friedman
Born Maria Friedman
(1961-03-19) 19 March 1961 (age 55)
Birmingham, England
Residence Benidorm, Spain
Occupation Actress
Years active 1980–present
Spouse(s) Adrian Der Gregorian (2006–present)
Jeremy Sams
Roland Brine
Oleg Poupko

Maria Friedman (born 19 March 1961) is an English actress and director of stage and screen, best known for her work in musical theatre. She is a seven-time Olivier Award nominee, winning four. Her first win was for her 1994 one-woman show, By Special Arrangement. She has also twice won Best Actress in a Musical for the original London productions of Passion and Ragtime. She is more recently known for her role as Elaine Peacock in EastEnders.

Early years[edit]

Friedman was born in Birmingham in the West Midlands, the daughter of Clair Llewelyn Friedman (née Sims), a concert pianist, and Leonard Friedman, a violinist for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.[1][2][3] Her father is from a Russian Jewish immigrant family and her mother is English.[4] She began her education in Germany, and by the age of five returned with her family to England after the divorce of her parents.[5]


She first gained fame when she won an Olivier Award for her one-woman cabaret, Maria Friedman By Special Arrangement and another Olivier Award starring in Stephen Sondheim's Passion in 1996, and later became one of the main leading ladies on the London Stage. She would later star in Chicago and Ragtime, both on the West End.

In 2004 she originated the role of Marian Halcombe in Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical The Woman in White in the West End and on Broadway in 2005. In the 1999 film of Lloyd Webber's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, she played the narrator.

As previews for The Woman in White started for the Broadway production, she was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer and left the show to have surgery to have the lump removed. Less than a week after the surgery she returned to the stage for the previews and performed on the official opening night. She said she would begin radiation treatment for the cancer in December 2005.[6] The Broadway production closed after only 109 performances on 22 February 2006, in part due to her and co-star Michael Ball's frequent absences due to illness. (Friedman had planned a six-week absence for further treatment, with Judy Kuhn to be her replacement,[7] but remained for the duration of the run once the closing was announced.)

As well as other musical shows, Maria participated in Hey, Mr. Producer!, the concert celebrating the works of Sir Cameron Mackintosh, in which she sang "You Could Drive a Person Crazy," "Broadway Baby," and "How Many Tears?" Similarly, she participated in Sondheim Tonight live at London's Barbican Centre, singing "Losing My Mind" (from Follies) and "More" (from the film Dick Tracy). She has also had several one woman shows: Maria Friedman – By Special Arrangement and Maria Friedman – By Extra Special Arrangement and has performed these in several top cabaret venues in both the UK (most recently at Trafalgar Studios) and New York City, including several engagements at the Café Carlyle.[8]

She can be heard on many cast recordings; and has released several solo albums including Maria Friedman, Maria Friedman Live, Now and Then, and Maria Friedman Celebrates The Great British Songbook.[9] Friedman has won three Laurence Olivier Awards and been nominated for seven.

In 2010, Friedman appeared as a soloist in the BBC Proms tribute to Stephen Sondheim at the Royal Albert Hall, London. She sang the role of Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd opposite Bryn Terfel. In 2012 she directed a revival of Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along. In October 2014, Friedman joined the cast of EastEnders as Elaine Peacock, the mother of established character Linda Carter (Kellie Bright). She has since appeared in December 2014 and February to March 2015 to date, before returning for a three-month stint in September 2015. In 2015, she directed a revival of High Society at The Old Vic Theatre. The production was played in the round.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Friedman has two sons: Toby Sams-Friedman (b. 1994) with actor Jeremy Sams; and Alfie Friedman (b. 2002)[11][1] with cameraman Oleg Poupko. She was married to dancer Roland Brine; her boyfriend is Adrian Der Gregorian.[12][13]

Stage productions[edit]

Olivier Awards[edit]

Year Category Work Result
1991 Best Actress in a Musical Sunday in the Park with George Nominated
1995 Best Entertainment By Special Arrangement Won
1997 Best Actress in a Musical Passion Won
1998 Best Actress in a Musical Lady in the Dark Nominated
1999 Best Actress in a Musical Chicago Nominated
2004 Best Actress in a Musical Ragtime Won
2005 Best Actress in a Musical The Woman in White Nominated



  1. ^ a b "About Maria" (official site)
  2. ^ Maria Friedman (9 December 2005). (Interview: transcript). Interview with David Drake Retrieved 19 February 2009.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^
  4. ^ Nikkhah, Roya (24 December 2009). "Sonia Friedman: 'There's nothing wrong with wearing pretty clothes and lipstick – and still being a strong woman'". The Daily Telegraph. London. 
  5. ^ "Casualty: Maria Friedman Plays Trish Baynes". Retrieved 19 February 2009.  Her younger sister is the theatre producer Sonia Friedman.
  6. ^ Staff writers (14 November 2005). "Stage star back after cancer op". BBC News. Retrieved 19 February 2009. 
  7. ^ News Desk."Judy Kuhn to Sub for Maria Friedman for 6 Weeks Starting February 14", 20 January 2006
  8. ^ Holden, Stephen."Maria Friedman: Master of a Thousand Sondheimian Disguises"The New York Times, 5 May 2006
  9. ^ "Celebrates The Great British Songbook", retrieved 11 June 2010
  10. ^ "Full casting announced for Old Vic's High Society",, 20 Mar 2015
  11. ^ "Maria Friedman", accessed 8 November 2016
  12. ^ Interview with Friedman, 10 December 2008
  13. ^ Saner, Emine "My toyboy stood by me", 24 April 2006

External links[edit]