Review: Friendsical (Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh)
The Friends parody musical opens at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Could it be any more disappointing? This hyped-up musical parody has had fans of the hit TV series in a heightened sense of excitement since the show was announced earlier this year. But, having now caught it on its UK tour – stopping off in Edinburgh for the Fringe – it's sad to report that Friendsical is a bit of a smelly cat.
The problem is the reason for the entire thing in the first place. Miranda Larson's piece sits very uncomfortably between a cute fan homage and a ripping-the-piss take-down and can't decide which one it wants to be. It's also tiresome. There's only so much gurning Ross, screechy Rachel and kooky Phoebe one can take (for the record, I could watch the real Friends non-stop for, like, forever) and don't forget – in Friendsical the characters are all dialled up to the max.
The weird framing device – or the excuse given for the show's existence – is that Ross has decided to make a ‘musical spectacular' of the ten years the six friends have all been hanging out together. But the big question, unfortunately, is… why? Aside from a few catchy numbers (such as "Richard's Moustache"), the songs are instantly forgettable, and if it weren't for the too-infrequent, well-choreographed dance numbers from Darren Carnall, they would be hard to sit through. It's occasionally fun watching the performers nail the original characters – which they often do – but the novelty of that is over after the first 15 minutes.
The cast as a whole does work really hard – sometimes a bit too hard – to embody Ross, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Joey and Phoebe and they are in the main quite good. Sarah Goggin has Monica down perfectly, and often you feel like you're actually watching Chandler's off-beat timing and awkwardness live on stage when Thomas Mitchells is on. The lot of them all have strong voices, which are wasted on the tunes.
It's a show that really lacks originality in its parody, riding on the back of someone else's jokes and a good cast. The scene transitions are clunky and the sound – possibly as a result of the limited resources at the Edinburgh Fringe – is very uneven. If you're a Friends fan you may enjoy it for the nostalgia, but that's about all there is to enjoy. Trust me, that's not a moot point. It's not even a moo point.