Wonder Woman in White

- This is London by , 18/11/2005 -

British star Maria Friedman has made a triumphant Broadway debut two weeks after she had surgery for breast cancer.

The actress had already started previews of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical The Woman In White when the cancer was discovered. Three days later she had surgery to remove a marble-sized tumour from her left breast.

She brought the house down last night in front of a sell-out crowd at the Marquis Theatre and said: "The show had to go on."

She said afterwards: "It was nervewracking. But the audience was wonderful and so was the rest of the cast. Everyone made me believe it was possible. The show just had to go on. It sounds a bit clichéd but it's true."

Friedman, 45, was replaced by an understudy while being treated. One week after surgery, despite painful bruising, she was back at rehearsals while a doctor waited in the wings. She performed preview performances with fellow actors watching in tears.

After the show, Olivier Award winner Friedman joined cast members and friends at a party at the Tavern On The Green restaurant in Central Park.

Co-star Michael Ball said: "I was proud to be on stage with her. It's just proper old-school theatrical heart."

Director Trevor Nunn said: "She's an incredible woman and a wonderful actress."

Friedman plays Marian Halcombe, the heroine and a role she created in the West End. She is on stage in almost every scene in a physically demanding role with lengthy solos.

The £8.5 million show is produced by her sister Sonia. Friedman said: "I wouldn't do it except I've watched Sonia work round the clock for a year to get this show here."

Friedman won a best actress award from for her role in the musical of Wilkie Collins's classic Victorian mystery novel in London and has received many other awards over a 25-year career.

The show itself has received mixed reviews, but critics were unstinting in their praise of Friedman.

The New York Times said: "In the best tradition of backstage stories of determination and triumph Friedman... makes an impeccably professional Broadway debut ... Her deeply expressive voice has the sheen of emotional truth."

The Hollywood said: "Friedman ... is deeply moving as Marian."

Friedman, who is temporarily living in New York with her boyfriend and sons aged 10 and three, is now set to undergo seven weeks of radiotherapy.

She told TV show Good Morning America: "It is one of those things, a day at a time. My doctor said to me before the surgery, 'This is a bad day today. You've got cancer, but tomorrow is a great day. You won't have it.' I feel completely blessed that today I'm feeling well."

Thanks to Doris for finding and sharing.

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