It may have been 15 years since Monica, Chandler, Phoebe, Joey, Ross and Rachel last graced the screen together as TV’s Friends, but the hit US comedy has maintained its popularity – and continues to gain new fans, particularly since all 10 series of the show were added to Netflix last year. It couldn’t be a better time, then, for a new musical parody of the show to come along and make the most of the friends’ return to popular interest; Friendsical (written and directed by Miranda Larson) has stepped up, and is resident at Assembly Rooms’ Music Hall venue for the duration of this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, prior to the resumption of a nationwide tour.
With 236 episodes of material and a 90-minute run time, there’s a lot to pack in – as such, it is quite a frantic affair. The concept is that Ross has put on a musical to celebrate his on-off-on relationship with Rachel, and so it does have to jump around quite significantly to try and include as many moments as it can; had it been an official offshoot of the TV show then it’s likely a completely new story would have been written (I’d imagine something in the vein of The One That Could Have Been or The One with the Flashback), but for an unofficial parody it’s probably best to make use of material that’s already available. There is a very loose framework of everyone heading to Monica’s for game night, though it isn’t quite robust enough to hold everything together once the timelines begin to get muddled.
I know that Ross being the architect of the show may not be popular for some (he is widely acknowledged as being a pretty terrible person), but could you honestly say that this isn’t a completely characteristic move for him?
The songs are fun, set to tunes similar to those used in the TV show and inviting some energetic choreography from Darren Carnall. Anthony Lamble’s set, though clever & beautifully designed, is perhaps a little ambitious in terms of practicality; the scene transitions have a tendency to be quite slow, so I wonder if there is any way of speeding them up or livening them up in some way – just to save the audience from staring at an empty stage whilst a backing track blares out.
Thanks to the ‘show within a show’ concept, it’s more understandable that a few very familiar mannerisms and quirks are utilised by the cast. However, they tread the line between impersonation and interpretation well, putting their own stamp on well-known characters whilst maintaining their identity. Ally Retberg (Phoebe) and Thomas Mitchells (Chandler) are particularly good at this; Jordan Fox feels slightly underused as Joey, though he’s brilliantly effective when Joey does have his moments – and Fox’s unexpected appearance as another character later on is absolutely one of the highlights of the show.
If you’re a Friends obsessive, and love musicals, then the chances are you’ll have a fantastic time – it’s irreverent and definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously, and that’s definitely something to remember. Speaking as someone who’s watched the TV series countless times (thank you, E4/Comedy Central/Netflix!), it’s an absolute joy to try and pick up every little detail that’s thrown at you throughout the 90 minutes. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea (or coffee?), but definitely good for a giggle.
My verdict? A light-hearted musical take on one of the most popular TV comedies of recent times – good for a laugh for Friends fans.