I reported here last week (on Wednesday November 2) that Maria Friedman, about to make her Broadway debut reprising her turn in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Woman in White, was diagnosed with breast cancer and was about to undergo surgery. On Thursday — just a week after her surgery — she had already returned to the show, and with a doctor waiting in the wings (and reapplying a bandage in the interval that was wrapped around her upper torso and made it difficult, she reported, to breath in the first act), she got through it.
That’s despite surgery that, according to a New York Times report yesterday, left her dark, painful bruises on her chest, a still raw incision and extremely tender ribs; Friedman was quoted as saying, “It’s like a large elephant sat on me”.
Meanwhile, the doctor who was on hand — Abraham Pollack, the radiologist who also first detected the tumour – was also quoted, saying, “I’m not an avid attendee of the theatre; I usually fall asleep. But I didn’t fall asleep in this one.”
So the old adage about the show must go on has certainly applied here; but having faced this stern personal test, facing the critics this week must be small potatoes by comparison. The musical, which revolves around two sisters supporting each other, has ironically turned into an offstage story of two sisters supporting each other, too: Maria’s sister Sonia, of course, is the show’s producer. As Sonia commented to the New York Times, “To open a show on Broadway is bad enough,” she said. “But then to have this?” But she added, “What kept me going is that Maria is not going to let this thing get in the way of her Broadway debut. She’d be damned before she’d let that happen.”
And Maria, in turn, says, “We have a deadline, a committed company, a lot of people’s livelihoods riding on this show. And I felt I dropped the baton at the last hurdle”. But she’s picked it up again, and adds, “I wouldn’t do it, except for I’ve watched Sonia work round the clock for a year to get this show here. I’m not going for hero status. I’m doing what I can do, with enormous support.”
The show will duly open, on schedule, this coming Thursday.