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Sonia Friedman has been ranked as the top producer in the Stage 100 2020

Thursday, 2 January 2020

On Sonia Friedman, The Stage said:

By her own extraordinary standards, 2019 was a slightly subdued year for Friedman, who last topped this list in 2017. Still, even in a relatively quiet year, Friedman managed to pick up seven Olivier and six Tony awards for her shows, while continuing the global roll-out of arguably the world’s hottest theatre brand.

Sonia Friedman Productions’ critically acclaimed stagings of Summer and Smoke and The Inheritance closed in January, going on to scoop best revival and best new play respectively at the Oliviers. Ivo van Hove’s All About Eve did not quite land with critics, but it did superb business, thanks in no small part to its starry cast, led by Gillian Anderson and Lily James.

Trevor Nunn’s revival of Fiddler on the Roof, which SFP transferred from the Menier Chocolate Factory, ran pretty much throughout the year, joining the ever-present Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and The Book of Mormon in the West End, while Mormon also embarked on its first UK and European tour.

But the artistic highlight of Friedman’s UK output in 2019 was Rosmersholm: this Rolls-Royce revival of a rarely staged Ibsen play was hailed by the Guardian’s Michael Billington as his number one show of the past year: “I’d rate this one of the best Ibsen productions I’ve ever seen,” he said. “Everything about this production felt right.”

Rosmersholm served as a welcome reminder that high-quality, classical drama can still thrive in the West End (just about) and it was a great example of the kind of top-class commercial theatre in which Friedman specialises.

Internationally, it was all go. Ink and The Ferryman both triumphed at the Tony Awards and were followed on Broadway by the transfer of The Inheritance. This epic play about three generations of gay men in New York did not quite receive the ecstatic notices it had enjoyed in the West End. It will be interesting to see how it fares at this year’s Tony Awards. Her other Broadway productions included Mean Girls and The Jungle – a decent indication of the staggering range of SFP’s output.

Meanwhile, the worldwide roll-out of Harry Potter continued apace with the show opening in Melbourne and San Francisco. Hamburg and Toronto follow in 2020.

Back in London, 2020 is shaping up to be an exciting year, with a new Tom Stoppard, Leopoldstadt, plus a new adaptation of Uncle Vanya, a transfer of the US production of To Kill a Mockingbird, and the Almeida’s The Doctor already all lined up for West End runs.

But amid all these glittering achievements there was one dark cloud: 2019 was the year that Friedman and her colleagues said goodbye to Teddy, her beloved Bichon Frise dog – a Theatreland icon in her own right and well known as “the real boss of SFP”, who died in May.

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