Assembly Rooms – Music Hall
Reviewed – 15th August 2019
“it becomes an over the top, pantomime of character traits and gestures”
“How YOU doin’?” Not great! After seeing my favourite 90s American sitcom Friends has been turned into a confusing musical parody.
Friendsical disappointingly misses the mark in many ways. Branding itself as a parody but it is clearly a failed attempt to recreate a condensed version of David Crane and Marta Kauffman’s original hit show with a few beige musical numbers thrown in for good measure. Iconic colourful umbrellas in hand – the cast of Friendsical take to the stage, singing a second rate adaptation of the “I’ll Be There For You” theme song. Although their umbrella-ography by Darren Carnall is slick, and energetic that is about the only thing worth note in this ninety minute “romp”.
The premise for the show as Ross Geller (Jamie Lee Morgan) explains to the audience is that he has decided to make a “musical spectacular” to celebrate their ten years of friendship together but particularly commemorating his relationship with Rachel (Charlotte Elisabeth Yorke) and so he has cast his friends to play themselves and re-enact their own memories through song in this live performance. Get it? No? Me neither.
Miranda Larson’s writing makes excuses from the beginning when Ross explains that the ‘timelines’ might get mixed up but the audience just have to allow it in the name of “theatrical license”. This prerequisite allows Larson to cram the rest of the show with word for word re-creations of moments such as: ugly naked guy, the wedding dress scene, Janice and Chandler’s break up and out of context catchphrases in the hopes that we won’t notice the lack of any real substance.
These are the characters we know and love – as if they are on acid. The actors do a great imitation of each of their parallels with clear in depth research in physicality and voice. In particular, Sarah Goggin’s up-tight, control freak Monica and Thomas Mitchell’s snarky and awkward Chandler couldn’t BE anymore spot on. However, once the novelty of seeing these imitations wears off it becomes an over the top, pantomime of character traits and gestures.
Anthony Lamble’s set design is one of the things this production got right. With the iconic purple door, the huge bay window and the neon Central Perk coffee sign. Lamble has recreated in great detail the famous locations of Manhattan life, generating an overwhelming sense of nostalgia which this show is definitely lacking.
In truth Friendsical doesn’t feel like a lovingly made homage to the sitcom with 236 episodes which we have all rewatched at least ten times. It feels like a ‘play by numbers’ venture, riding off a multi-billion dollar brand to get hyped fans bums on seats. This ambitious remake is a steep price to pay for fans with not much given in return.
Reviewed by Liz Davis
Photography by Dale Wightman
Assembly Rooms – Music Hall until 25th August as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019
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