first_imgWhen Sonia Friedman began her career as a theatre producer, sexism was so rife that she was accused of getting the job because she wore a short skirt.That was a long time ago. Now a super-producer behind some of the West End’s greatest hits, she has capped her success by being named theatreland’s most powerful figure in a list traditionally dominated by men.Friedman heads The Stage magazine’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the industry, the first woman to do so in her own right for nearly 20 years. Since 1999, the top spot has been passed between just four entrants: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Cameron Mackintosh, David Ian, and the husband-and-wife theatre owners Howard Panter and Rosemary Squire.The 51-year-old producer is known for her Midas touch, with shows ranging from Jerusalem and Wolf Hall to Bend It Like Beckham and Legally Blonde. She brought the record-breaking Book of Mormon to the West End, and Benedict Cumberbatch to the Barbican as Hamlet. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. The Stage 100 list, 20171 Sonia Friedman2 Andrew Lloyd Webber3 Cameron Mackintosh and Nicholas Allott4 Mark Cornell and Adam Kenwright (ATG)5 Rufus Norris, Lisa Burger and Ben Power (National Theatre)6 Nica Burns and Max Weitzenhoffer (Nimax Theatres)7 Gregory Doran, Catherine Mallyon, Erican Whyman (RSC)8 David Lan and Lucy Woollatt (Young Vic)9 Josie Rourke and Kate Pakenham (Donmar Warehouse)10 Emma Rice and Neil Constable (Shakespeare’s Globe)See the full list at Friedman is only the second woman to top The Stage’s List, and the first in 19 years. The only other woman was Janet Holmes à Court, then boss of Stoll Moss Theatres, who was placed first in 1998.“I find that being a woman has not stopped me – obviously – but it has certainly made me feel I have to work that bit harder to prove that I’m good at my job, and that I can be trusted to do my job well,” Friedman said.”I think I’ve got to the point where I don’t think of myself in gender terms, although I’m acutely aware of the responsibility of being a woman doing this job hopefully being an inspiration for other women.”But there’s no question that I’ve had to make sacrifices along the way. I wouldn’t say I’ve had a conventional lifestyle in any way, shape or form, in order to have got to this point.”I don’t have children, and not having to bring up a family has meant I can dedicate myself 24 hours a day to what is an incredibly intense job.”In the past, she has described being subjected to sexism throughout her career, once saying of her early years at the National Theatre: “It is a man’s world, without question… People said I only got the job because I was pretty, I only got the job because I wore a mini skirt.”She said in a 2009 interview: “I am accused all the time of having affairs with men who are very powerful and successful in this business… being one of the few women in this industry, it comes at me a lot.”Although women make up only 34 per cent of the top 100, the number of women in the top 10 has jumped 50 per cent since 2016. They include Josie Rourke and Kate Pakenham at the Donmar, and the Nimax Theatre boss Nica Burns. Noma Dumezweni and Emma Watson backstage at Harry Potter and the Cursed Child While “very proud” to be representing women in the list, Friedman said she was most delighted to be the first winner who is solely a producer, and not an owner or operator of a West End theatre.“Audiences come and see the work, they don’t come to see buildings,” she said.“It’s not about real estate, it’s not about buildings, it’s not about assets. No one ever likes to admit they’re pleased to be No 1, or that they’ve got awards or whatever.”But I’m very proud of myself, actually, and of the team around me, that for the first time it’s the work that is being acknowledged.”As for the future of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, plans are afoot to open on Broadway in 2018. Friedman said she hoped the show would go on “forever! There is no end date in sight. My job on Harry Potter is to make sure it outlives me.” Cursed Child Harry Potter Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has also catapulted other talents on to The Stage’s list, including Noma Dumezweni, who is the highest-placed actor at No 22.Dumezweni plays Hermione Granger, a role made famous on film by Emma Watson. Internet trolls were critical of Dumezweni’s casting, claiming that a black actress was wrong for the role.Rowling dismissed them as a “bunch of racists”, and Friedman said: “I’m really proud to work with Noma. She is a trailblazer and she is an extraordinary force of nature. She has kept her head held so high through quite a lot of nonsense. It’s all about her talent, frankly, and not her colour.”Other women in the top 100 include Sheridan Smith, who starred in Funny Girl, and Glenda Jackson, who made a long-awaited return to the stage in King Lear at the Old Vic. Sheridan Smith Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which opened at the Palace Theatre in June, came to life after Friedman approached JK Rowling with the idea of a play exploring Harry’s adult years.The fan response was ecstatic, the reviews were glorious, and tickets sold out so fast that an extra 250,000 seats were made available and snapped up within hours.Explaining why Friedman has finally topped the list after so many years, Alistair Smith, print editor of The Stage, said: “Sonia Friedman has enjoyed a number of notable hits in recent years, but in 2016, she went stratospheric.“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was always likely to be a licence to print money. What has made it really special was that Friedman and her fellow creatives resisted the temptation to treat the production as a cash cow and created something truly magical, original and – above all – theatrical.”Friedman, 51, told The Telegraph: “Harry Potter was one of the highlights of my life and career, but every year to me has felt extraordinary.“I don’t want to be defined by Harry. Because of the nature of Harry Potter and how high profile it is, I think people perhaps noticed me a bit more. But I’d been pretty busy before that and I will continue to be so afterwards.” Harry Potter and the Cursed Child opened to rave reviewsCredit:Charlie Gray Sheridan Smith also makes the list for her performance in Funny GirlCredit:Menier Chocolate Factorylast_img

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