Friendsical is a jam-packed musical full of fun choreography, cheesy tunes and questionable impressions of our beloved Friends characters. If you’re like me and the classic TV hit Friends holds a special place in your heart, then it’s hard not to feel protective over the original genius material. But Miranda Larson has stayed close to the original TV script, so the nostalgia that comes from watching these iconic characters comes flooding back.
Larson has created an intricate plot that includes 10 seasons of material in 90 minutes. Over mere moments they cover Ross (Jamie Lee-Morgan) and Emily’s (Rebecca Withers) marriage, Phoebe’s (Ally Retberg) pregnancy and Ross’ infamous leather pants. The show is told from Ross’ perspective as he attempts to orchestrate a musical celebration of his and Rachel’s (Charlotte Elisabeth York) relationship. But the whole thing doesn’t follow the chronological order of Friends, and includes an obscene amount of plot. It’s overloaded with information and mixes storylines from season two and nine, which is just confusing.
I also wouldn’t really call it a parody – there’s no doubt that it’s an excellent replication, but nothing makes fun of the original, and instead it’s a good retelling of the acclaimed TV show. Therefore, a lot of the humour is credit to the original writers, as we laugh at classic scenes like “OH MY GOD”, rather than anything from the new script. Larson has done an admirable job at creating an extremely detailed show that fills every second with a reference to Friends, but at the cost of feeling like a copy rather than a fresh perspective.
The most important part of this show is whether the actors do justice to the distinguished characters – I would say they got it right about half of the time. Each actor has undoubtedly done extensive research and studied every detail down to the way their characters walks. Some of this lands brilliantly, and unfortunately some of it doesn’t. Sarah Goggin is hilariously accurate as Monica with her perfectionistic portrayal of the neat freak, and she sings effortlessly and with great power. Jordan Fox as Joey and Thomas Mitchells as Chandler are the perfect duo on stage. Fox sings exquisitely and Mitchells nails Chandlers bumbling humour throughout. They both have created tremendously detailed characters that are delightfully precise. York makes a fine and convincing Rachel, playing her with a ditsy ease.
Retgberg and Lee-Morgan as Phoebe and Ross are the two that don’t work for me. Their portrayals feel over the top, so that they surpass the nuanced detail of the originals. Retberg takes Phoebe to an even crazier place, and while her eccentric dancing is funny to start off with, it soon becomes overly dramatic and unlike Phoebe’s quietly kooky nature. Similarly, Lee-Morgan takes Ross’ nerdiness too far in an attempt to do justice to this complex guy. Despite all this, the standout for me is Duncan Burt as Gunther, Richard and the Xerox girl. He commands the stage brilliantly and surprises the audience with his striking voice.
Both the set and costumes are recogniseable, down to the famous central perk sofa, purple apartment door, and 90s inspired looks the characters wear – this rigorous attention to detail is satisfying to see as a fan of the show. Overall, Friendsical is a fun show that closely follows the classic story we all know and love. It’s upbeat and full of energy, with accurate replications of the original show throughout. It’s just unfortunate that the plot is incoherent and largely unoriginal, and some of the impersonations aren’t quite right.
Friendsical: A Parody Musical About Friends is playing at the Assembly Rooms, Music Hall until 25 August. For more information and tickets, visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.