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BWW Review: FRIENDS! THE MUSICAL PARODY at Orpheum Theater

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Running through October 10th at the Orpheum Theater in Sioux Falls, SD

BWW Review: FRIENDS! THE MUSICAL PARODY at Orpheum Theater

The touring production of Friends! The Musical Parody at the Orpheum Theater in Sioux Falls, SD had an energy of excitement and anticipation on Thursday evening as the audience found their seats; many of them as a "group of friends". As recorded music ramped up the theme to the iconic television program, it was a familiar space of sense memory that took you back to a time when we were all less absorbed by our electronic devices and social media and more curious about the situations a cast of quirky and hilarious characters would navigate. Friends! was a series that spanned 10 years and 236 episodes. Is it possible that I saw every episode of this series? Now that the television show is in syndication, I would have to concede the answer is a resounding and celebratory, "yes!" Twenty five years after it first appeared on the airwaves, it continues to be a favorite among fans, many of them not even born when it began.

The pace of the show from start to finish is fast and clever and you had to stay alert to catch your favorite "buzz phrases" and jokes. The show had 10 years of iconic comedy memories to pull into a tight show with music and choreography and there were times that I was wishing that it would slow down just for a moment. The sound balance of the actors' body microphones and the accompaniment music was a little bit "in your face" with its' volume and I think it took a few minutes for me to adjust to that. I found the music written to move the parody along, inventive and memorable with just enough repetition to get me singing along (quietly) on the repeatable phrases. As the cast of the show is introduced, you find yourself looking for the physical and emotional characteristics of the television show's characters. I was a little distracted with reconciling those aspects in some cases, but the character of Phoebe played by Jenna Cormey was "spot on" with her gestures, physical quirks, costuming, wig and makeup and really sealed the connection I felt watching her on portray one of my favorite characters of the series. Kudos to you Ms. Cormey, you never let me down once last night. Coldin Grundmeyer as Gunther was the catalyst for keeping the show moving with set and prop changes and creating some funny and appropriately awkward Gunther moments in the show.

This entire cast has such excellent vocal talent that I was completely enthralled by their mastery of the music and Maggie McMeans as Monica has some particularly memorable and impressive vocal riffs. I warmed to the characters of Ross and Joey played by Nick Anastasia and Domenic Servidio respectively, in large part because of their energy and commitment to character, but ultimately, their comedic timing was very solid. Sami Griffith as Rachel did a superb job of reimagining the physical and vocal attributes that Ms. Aniston brought to this character. I found myself making lists of all the ways she was a "dead ringer" to the television character. Maggie McMeans was at her best as the Monica that was obsessed and in love with Chandler. Which brings me to AC Rutherford as the character of Chandler, and then also Janice, but then as a very parodied Tom Selleck, and a hilarious portrayal of Marcel, Ross' pet monkey, and then Janice again, and other characters.

Mr Rutherford, someday, I am going to say to my friends in the senior living coffee shop, that "I saw you when..."! Your mastery of the "others" that you portrayed with lightening speed costume changes was so impressive, so masterful, and your comedic timing is stellar! For me, it was the number that Janice performs in Act Two that stole the show. Side note: I read your program note and kind of loved your personal politics before I ever saw you on the stage. You have some "chutzpah" buddy.

I love reading the program bios and notes, and when it was pointed out that the writers are "best friends" and have written nine musical parodies of popular television programs, I started making a mental bucket list of the ones I wanted to see before I leave the planet. If the spontaneous standing ovation of Thursday evening is any indication of what we can expect from them as a writing team, I say, "keep it coming!"

There are four more performances this weekend of this trippy roller coaster ride of a show. Your entertainment dollars are well spent at Friends! The Musical Parody.


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