Friendsical

Miranda Larson
Grand Theatre, Blackpool
to

The One Where... 10 years of the American sitcom Friends flash before your eyes in a skilful parody musical.

So there are heavy demands, on stage and off, for this ‘world première’ of a show that packs in a lot of entertainment (maybe too much?) into a little more than two hours.

You would have to be a superfan indeed to remember every storyline, set-up and even some of the attendant characters who turn up in this show. Writer and director Miranda Larson is evidently a devotee since her first-ever stage play, back in 2004, was The Box Upstairs, a Friends-based comedy.

This time, she’s added original music to the storyline including fresh lyrics to the Rembrandts’ song that opened the TV show.

The result is a suitably fast, funny and feelgood production that suffered on opening night here from a diabolical sound balance. Several of the characters’ voices were pitched too high, while the pre-recorded music was left too low.

That’s why the physical humour seemed to cut through more easily than the spoken wit, and everyone remembers how much of that there was to enjoy in Friends. This was the show after all that gave the Millennial generation many of its tropes and catchphrases and could justifiably have copyrighted the exclamation “Omigod!”.

It’s a tribute to the energy and professionalism of the ensemble cast of eight (the six principal characters aided by Duncan Burt and Rebecca Withers in ancillary roles) that the show generally manages to rise above the acoustic difficulties.

Jamie Lee-Morgan is an eerily authentic Ross; Jordan Fox a suitably-detached Joey; Sarah Goggin an obsessive Monica; Thomas Mitchells a buttoned-up Chandler; Charlotte Elizabeth York a ditzy Rachel; and Ally Retberg an even ditzier Phoebe—but did she really flail her arms around quite so often?

Their relentless conviction—and skilful scenery shifting—ensures this show’s affection for its subject is mirrored by its audience’s enthusiastic reception. Credit also to choreography from Darren Carnall and Michael Vinsen.

Friendsical has already cut its teeth with a three-week stint in Edinburgh, has several more weeks of its current UK tour to go and looks to be already booked for a further tour next year. This could be the one that runs and runs.

Reviewer: David Upton