Wednesday 5th October 2022 at Harrogate Theatre.
Friendsical, A Parody Musical is one of those shows… when it’s good, it’s great fun, and when it’s bad, it’s almost forgivable – parodying a beloved long-running TV series is no easy feat after all!
Writer and lyricist Miranda Larson (who also directs) frames the narrative as Ross’ vanity project: a play about his own life, featuring all his pals playing themselves in retrospect. Cue plenty of bickering about some of Ross’ accuracy and a veritable feast of classic Friends lines, running gags and plot lines for die-hard fans to enjoy.
What’s most impressive is the way a fair few of the cast have absolutely nailed their takes on the original characters. Tim Edwards’ Chandler is hands down the highlight of the night – he could easily have his own spin-off parody for the life of Mr Bing. Sarah Michelle-Kelly’s Monica is also remarkably spot on with the impersonations – not to mention the fact that she benefits more than a little from a striking resemblance to Ms. Cox.
Nelson Bettencourt’s Ross is often pitched perfectly but at times he bravely goes his own way with delivery – the head toss and Ross’ various oddities all get an outing though. Rachel is brilliantly over-played by Amelia Kinu Muus as the raving drama Queen we all know her to be and it’s fascinating to realise that like Edwards, Muus can channel the voice of the original in various famous lines, particularly when she’s cross!
Sario Solomon’s Joey is a little too much in the margins in the first half but the mannerisms surface more distinctly in Act 2 and he offers up some very entertaining multi rolling as Ross’ fling (Edwards’ take on Rachel’s Italian stallion is also a real hoot). Olivia Williamson is a fantastic Janice (no really, it’s a fab take on a very big character), but her Phoebe isn’t such a winner; she’s a factory-set ditz, but she’s not Phoebe, and where’s the justice when Janice shines brighter than Phoebe I ask you?! It’s also possible that the issue is just the contrast between that loose characterisation and the uncanny likenesses and perfected mannerisms elsewhere in the cast…
Completing the line-up is Lawrence Chaney, who offers some good laughs as the overlooked guest star, and Gunther, God love him, who is well-captured here by Tanveer Singh Devgun and is deservedly gifted his own song.
Anthony Lamble makes impressive work of recreating characters and apartments through costume and set design and it’s great to see how smoothly the scenes can shift between Central Perk and the various apartments. Darren Carnall’s choreography is also a glowing addition to the show and often gives the odd clunky transition some flair as the cast are smooth movers and deliver Carnall’s vision with an infectious sense of fun.
All in all, this is an entertaining but patchy show. The songs alone offer everything from the catchy and knowingly ridiculous to the clunky and forgettable (yes, even for a parody). But there’s a lot to enjoy and plenty of fun to be had with this great cast – particularly if you’re the kind of fan who knows every line. So it’s tricky. For big fans, I’ll say try it and see for yourself; for those who enjoy the show but don’t quote it daily or anything, this might not impress as you hope…
Friendsical: A Parody Musical tours until November 2022 and you can find tickets and more information here.
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