Friendsical - Review
Updated: Sep 16, 2019
We have to start this with a caveat that this is a show written for Friends fans. If you don’t know the show you’ll be lost in the story and pretty much most if not all the jokes won’t be understood.
Through Ross breaking the 4th wall we learn the story is a love story of Ross and Rachel hence this is the focus. The ending of the entire series that made it seem like it was always about Ross and Rachel was one of the worst parts of the programme so I like that they immediately play on this. Given they are condensing 236 episodes into 2 hours this story should have helped give it some structure but the narrative was still incoherent. Even knowing the programme well it was difficult to see where they were going. The show relies heavily on lifting lines from the programme and putting them in wherever they fit and are often funnier just because you know the lines as they are mostly out of context. Some of the time this works but other times it falls flat. As a parody it relies too heavily on the original scripts and it worked a lot better when they add their own jokes. It also does well when it actually parodies rather than copies the programme, such as proving Emma was still there by carrying a baby monitor and a great early joke involving the coffee cups. But given all the recent criticism I would have liked to see them address some of that rather than completely ignore it. There were some well though out parts but also many missed opportunitites.
I’m unsure why they made it a musical as the songs seem superfluous at times and it may have been easier to structure the narrative without them. Similarly with the choreography, at times it was innovative and fun while at others I was wondering why they made it so eighties. It was a pity they couldn’t get the rights to use “I’ll Be There For You” or “Smelly Cat” (along with other Phoebe songs) as this would have given it a big lift.
The set was excellent and recreates the apartments and coffee house perfectly. However, the scene changes were very clunky particularly with Monica’s apartment where there was too much set to do it quickly. As the stage is set up like a sound stage (as if you’re watching an episode be filmed) they could have kept more set up on stage to reduce the changes needed. I was also surprised the doors weren’t reversible. There has obviously been a lot of effort put in to make these look amazing but there wasn’t a focus on practicality which influenced the flow of the show.
I realise this has sounded negative so far but there were some excellent parts.
The acting was great with the cast getting the mannerisms needed to effectively portray these iconic characters but with their own unique spin (although the director weirdly decided Phoebe needed to throw her arms in the air after every line). A particular highlight was Janice and the laugh, and the Xerox girl was perfectly cast. Jordan Fox as Joey is superb and was a standout talent.
While not all the music worked there were a couple of good songs, we really enjoyed the dream song. The voices were excellent and we would like to hear these voices challenged on other music.
As for the story, while it’s incoherent it captures all the iconic and memorable lines you’d expect to be there, reminding you of many things you may have forgotten. It gets the laughs it wants to and the finale is energetic and uplifting. For fans of Friends, while it’s not perfect, it will certainly raise a smile and provide an enjoyable couple of hours. We give this three Laura Michelle-Kelly stars. Check here for where you can catch it on tour https://britishtheatre.com/friendsical-uk-tour/