REVIEW: Friendsical: A Parody Musical About Friends (Assembly Rooms) ★

Friendsical (a musical based on the 90s sitcom Friends) is the latest nostalgic trip-down-memory-lane show, which is currently so on trend in the world right now.

Assuming everyone is familiar with the TV show, the premise for the show is that Ross wants to put on a musical spectacular to celebrate the story of the six friends spanning a decade. He casts himself and the rest of the cast to play themselves in his production and what follows is 90 minutes of speeding through the events and memorable gags from the show’s 10 seasons.

The writers have really tried to squeeze every last drop of the show into those 90 minutes. Some key scenes are acted out in full (Rachel arriving to join the Friends in her wedding dress, Chandler dumping Janice); other events are fleetingly referenced with no context (at one point Monica just shouts something like ‘don’t forget your prosthetic foreskin’ at Joey as he exits the stage); and just to ensure everything is covered there are two scenes (a quiz-show game and a dream sequence) where the actors just say in rapid succession things that happened in the series but there wasn’t enough time to act out. It’s bizarre too say the least.

The re-release of Friends on Netflix in recent years brought with it some controversy; in viewing it 20 or so years after the fact, the script presents itself riddled with misogyny, latent homophobia and fat-shaming. Fans of the show will be pleased to find these classic hallmarks still present. It felt intensely uncomfortable in 2019 seeing Joey suggest that the opportune time for Ross to try and stick his penis in Rachel is ‘while she’s vulnerable’. The writers have carried through the theme into the music e.g. the Xerox copy girl (with whom Ross famously has a one night stand whilst ‘on a break’ from Rachel) gleefully sings her introduction ‘I’m the Xerox slut’. Could it BE any less woke?

None of this however is the fault of the actors, who (for the most part) deliver up great impersonations of the original characters, accurately capturing the friends’ ridiculous individual vocal inflections as well as their collective propensity to spontaneously shout odd lines at one another.

The music is pretty bad. Predictably we have the ‘We Were On A Break’ song for which the chorus is just Ross shouting the words over and over again. There’s also one called Richard’s Moustache and another one about ‘you’re over me when were you under me’. It’s all not very catchy and forgettable, and feels like it’s been cobbled together in a hurry.

I think much of the bad stuff could be forgiven if it were in fact ‘a parody’ as the show title suggests but I sensed no irony nor pastiche and wonder if they misinterpreted the word ‘parody’ the way Alanis Morissette misinterpreted the word ‘Ironic’ in the 90’s.

In short, I didn’t enjoy myself at Friendsical. The choreography was horrific and the sound was terrible. When one of the actors microphones stopped working for a large chunk of the performance, I was kind of relieved. Certainly there will be plenty to satisfy the appetites of the hordes of dreadful nostalgia cucks out there but as a theatrical performance this was really quite embarrassing to watch.

Reviewed by West End Wilma

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