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Sonia Friedman is ranked The Stage's most influential theatre producer

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

On Sonia Friedman Productions, The Stage said:

At the Palace Theatre, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child continues to be busier than Diagon Alley on Black Friday. In 2018, it also began its Voldermort-like march to global domination, with a first replica production opening in New York and more to follow in San Francisco, Hamburg and Melbourne (so far).

In New York, Friedman has had a particularly busy year on Broadway, with productions of Travesties, Farinelli and the King, The Ferryman and Mean Girls joining the aforementioned wizard. Ink, the James Graham play about Larry Lamb and Rupert Murdoch that Friedman has already transferred from the Almeida to the West End, is soon to join them.

In London, it has been a brave year, with two unlikely hits that might never have had a commercial life but for Friedman’s intervention: The Jungle and The Inheritance.

The Inheritance is a seven-hour, two-part new play by Matthew Lopez that transposes EM Forster’s novel Howards End to 21st-century New York a generation after the 1980s Aids crisis. Friedman transferred the hit Young Vic production and its huge cast to the West End, where it proved to be the new play of the year, winning an Evening Standard Award in the process.

Even bolder was The Jungle, which told stories from the eponymous Calais refugee camp. For the transfer, the West End’s Playhouse Theatre was turned into an Afghan cafe. Friedman has been a key supporter of Good Chance Theatre since it launched as a pop-up venue in the camp outside Calais in 2015. No one – not even Friedman – could have thought at the time that three years later it would inspire a West End show.

Other West End shows, nearly all of them bona fide critical hits, included ConsentThe Birthday Party and The Ferryman, which joined long-runners such as The Book of Mormon and Dreamgirls. Plans for this year include the fascinating prospect of a stage version of All About Eve, directed by Ivo van Hove and starring Gillian Anderson and Lily James.

For most of 2018, Friedman had five productions running at any one time in the West End, and across the whole year she produced 23 shows across all territories. She also continued to branch out into TV production, following up the BBC adaptation of Wolf Hall by executive-producing King Lear with Anthony Hopkins. Her West End production of Funny Girl starring Sheridan Smith was also screened globally in cinemas and made it to TV. This would be an extraordinary output for any other producer but for Friedman it has become business as usual.

Playwright Tom Stoppard refers to Friedman as this generation’s “go-to producer” and when she appeared in 2018’s Time 100 list with an entry penned by James Corden, he explained: “She understands the logistics, the nuts and bolts, of putting on a show. And she knows what audiences want to see, even before they do.”

It’s hard to argue with any of that: Friedman is a true producer, creating a portfolio of work dwarfing that of her competitors in terms of scale, variety and quality. The West End and Broadway would be shadows of themselves without the work she is creating.

Friedman was ranked number one in The Stage 100 two years ago and – when it comes to producing quality theatre in the commercial sphere – she is still top dog.

Read the full article here.

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