BWW Review: FRIENDSICAL, Worthing Pavilion Theatre
It's been 25 years since a certain coffee shop-loving troupe appeared on our TV screens. FRIENDSICAL: A Parody Musical About Friends, written and directed by Miranda Larson, is a love letter to that sitcom series so many know and love. After debuting at this year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival, it is making its Worthing stop during a UK tour at the Pavilion Theatre.
FRIENDSICAL tells the story of six friends living in Manhattan: Monica (Sarah Goggin), Chandler (Thomas Mitchells), Phoebe (Ally Retberg), Joey (Jordan Fox), Rachel (Charlotte Elizabeth York) and Ross (Jamie Lee-Morgan and how they navigate their twenties and thirties, heroically trying to fit ten years of fun into just over two hours!
Goggin nails Monica's high-pitched mannerisms and obsession with keeping everything organised. Mitchells is particularly entertaining as bumbling Chandler. Could his enunciations be any more sporadic?
Phoebe is played with whimsical and joyous energy by Retberg. Fox is endearingly naive as Joey and York gives a fine performance as Rachel, the runaway bride, with plenty of hair flipping in tow.
Lee-Morgan gives a hilariously eccentric take on Ross, the central narrator of this tale, as he tries to put wrong to right and do over the last ten years of his tumultuous relationship with Rachel while attempting to miss the sad parts. While others have criticised this choice of plot, isn't parody supposed to go over well-trodden material?
Larson's impressive attempt to squeeze as many in-jokes from the franchise into the musical is admirable. That said, a reference to the interval well before the actual interval is misjudged and results in what feels like an overly long first half, yet still leaves a huge amount of material to be covered in the second act. This is nothing that a musical number can't fix, as the self-aware show amusingly points out.
It would have been interesting to touch on how the franchise has been recently viewed through more critical lenses of audiences new to the show. Still, there were plenty of self-deprecating digs about inconsistencies within the show's inspiration to keep the audience happy.
On occasion, some particularly quick references, be it dialogue, or in song, are lost, particularly with the poor sound quality that was prevalent in the opening minutes of this performance at the Pavilion Theatre. Given the show has been in the venue for a few days, it was disappointing this took so long to get fixed and even then, the balance of the lively backing tracks with the quick vocals was far from perfect.
The score by Barrie Bignold is very well thought out, with 90s musical references everywhere, including nods to music featured in a certain TV show. From "You're Over Me? When Were You Under Me?" to "Richard's Moustache", all the numbers were performed with immense energy from the cast, with particularly impressive vocals from Fox.
Lively and busy choreography by Darren Carnall is performed very slickly by those on stage. Anthony Lamble's designs make locations from the well-loved franchise instantly recognisable without being too similar for understandable copyright reasons. Unfortunately, the scene changes always seemed to require a few extra bars of incidental music, resulting in some clunky moments of silence between scenes.
The responses from the audience are wonderful to hear, be it delight from the use of a specific a prop to the appearance of a character's ex. This show is definitely for people who are knowledgeable of the content being parodied.
Despite the odd wobble, FRIENDSICAL is a whirlwind nostalgia trip that leaves you with a warmth in your heart and a smile on your face, just as a catch up with your favourite friends should do.
FRIENDSICAL: A PARODY MUSICAL ABOUT FRIENDS at Worthing Pavilion Theatre until 5 October and then continues on tour
Photo credit: Dale Wightman