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Sonia Friedman: West End ‘best it’s ever been’

Sonia Friedman collecting the best new musical Olivier award with the cast and crew of Sunny Afternoon. Photo: Pamela Raith
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Sonia Friedman has claimed the West End is experiencing a golden age and that it is “as good as it can ever be”.

The prolific producer was speaking at the 2015 Olivier Awards, where her productions picked up six prizes from 17 nominations.

Collecting the best new musical award for Sunny Afternoon, for which she was co-producer, Friedman told The Stage: “I think what is happening is we are absolutely in a period in the West End which I hope will be considered a golden age, but also a golden age that will not stop.”

She added: “I would like the history books to look back on this time and say this was the moment when the West End was truly changing and it was a mixed economy for all audiences, for all demographics, for all social classes, for all cultures, for all backgrounds.”

Friedman also decried an industry assumption that subsidised theatres produce better work, and commercial West End shows are “not produced with the same integrity”.

She continued: “Obviously I’m a girl from the subsidy and I’m now working in the commercial sector, but it’s been my primary objective – and I will not stop until I’ve done this – that there is no difference between the National and the West End, between the Royal Court and the West End.

“I can stand here alongside a lot of colleagues doing the same job, saying the West End is as good as it can ever be, and it’s probably the best it’s ever been right now.”

In total, Sunny Afternoon took home four Oliviers: best new musical, best actor in a musical for John Dagleish, best supporting actor in a musical for George Maguire and outstanding achievement in music for the Kinks frontman Ray Davies.

Friedman added that putting together a musical with Davies was not always an easy task, but she felt compelled to continue because “when you see it, you can’t believe those songs weren’t written for this show”.

She explained: “If you meet Ray, he’s a quiet man – he’s a bloody difficult man – but I love him. And he challenged me and the team from the get go. But I had to keep going with this musical even when I was really tested, because the artistry and the music within it is so overpowering.”

In addition to Sunny Afternoon’s haul, shows Friedman produced received two more awards: best new play for King Charles III and best set design for The Nether.

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