Friends! The Musical Parody

by | Dec 2, 2022

Review by Bronwyn Cook
“The One With the Review”

🎶 So no one told you life was gonna be this way…clap clap clap clap.

Chances are you are now singing the rest of this iconic sitcoms theme song in your head, whether you were a fan of the show or not.

For the 10 years following the shows debut in 1994, “Friends” ruled the TV landscape and with so many characters and moments from the show firmly engrained into the pop culture zeitgeist, its not much of a surprise that “Friends! The Musical Parody” exists.

With book and lyrics by Bob and Tobly McSmith and music by Assaf Gleizner, the show will delight hard core Friends lovers and haters alike in the no-hold bars approach to amplifying each of the main characters personality traits, some of the more mind-boggling plot points and the most memorable moments from the show.

Bringing the six New Yorkers to the stage are Eleanor Macintyre (Rachel), Annie Chiswell (Monica), Belinda Jenkin (Phoebe), Conor Putland (Joey), Maverick Newman (Chandler) and Tyran Stig (Ross), supported by Dom Hennequin (Gunther and others).

The show claims to cover all 10 seasons in 90 minutes, which is a tall order. The first half of show covers the first three – mainly centered on the will-they-or-won’t-they relationship between Ross and Rachel. What would normally be a show intermission is a quick fast-forward through the middle seasons and their hero moments. The back half of the show switches focus to Monica and Chandler’s relationship. Not to say that Phoebe and Joey don’t get their respective stage time as characters, but without the big relationship storylines, I felt they were a bit sidelined in the show.

There were times if I closed my eyes, the voice acting and characterisations were so spot on, it could have been the TV show cast I was listening to. Each actor really dug deep into finding those very particular nuances to bring out the neurotic, whimsy, entitled, goofy, smarmy, nerdy core of who they were portraying.

Whilst Newman as Chandler is the least physically like his character (way too tall) he absolutely STEALS the show as his secondary character. Appearing after being summoned by a few “Oh My Gods” in a row, his Janice characterisations and on-stage antics make the price of admission worth it. I snort laughed several times.

Frances Story’s set design is simple but allows for seamless transition between the two main settings for the show (both TV and stage) – Central Perk and Monica’s apartment.

Having to be very careful not to incur any copyright infringements the music for the show borrows not only from the popular songs and genres from peak Friends era (e.g. Matchbox Twenty and Sir Mix-a-Lot) but also from musical theatre itself. With two very noticeable tune references, one prop reference and one casting reference – you could tell who were the musical theatre geeks in audience by their response.

If you are a Friends fan, this show is an absolute must-see and you will adore all of the obvious big references and all of the clever smaller ones. If you are not a Friends fan, you will enjoy the show for the magnified characterisations and well…parody of it all.

Friends! The Musical Parody is now playing at the Athenaeum Theatre in Melbourne’s East End Theatre District.

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