After undergoing surgery just two weeks ago to remove a malignant tumour on her left breast, West End diva Maria Friedman (pictured) will make her Broadway debut tonight (17 November 2005) in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Woman in White at New York’s Marquis Theater.

The 45-year-old actress was diagnosed with breast cancer on Monday 31 October and underwent surgery on 3 November (See The Goss, 2 Nov 2005}). Despite painful bruises, she returned to the cast on 10 November for final previews and rehearsals, with a doctor in the wings, ahead of tonight’s press performance for New York critics.

Friedman stars as Marian Halcombe in the musical, for which she won the Award for Best Actress in a Musical during her original West End stint. She told the New York Times: "I'm not going for hero status. I'm doing what I can do, with enormous support." The show is co-produced by her sister, Sonia Friedman.

Three-time Olivier Award winner Friedman is joined in the cast by fellow Briton Michael Ball (who took over from role originator Michael Crawford in the West End) as the villainous Count Fosco and original London cast members, Americans Jill Paice (as Marian’s half-sister Laura Fairlie) and Angela Christian (another Award winner) in the title role.

Loosely based on Wilkie Collins’ Victorian novel, first published in 1869, The Woman in White has a book by Charlotte Jones, with lyrics by David Zippel set to Lloyd Webber’s score. The musical is directed by Trevor Nunn, designed by William Dudley and produced by Sonia Friedman Productions and Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Company. Amongst the accolades for the London production, which is currently booking until 1 April 2006, are no fewer than five 2005 Theatregoers' Choice Awards, including Best Director and Best Designer.

- by Caroline Ansdell