T&L Reviews: Friendsical at The Rose
Jenny Booth reviews Friends spin-off, Friendsical, at The Rose in Kingston
All 236 episodes of the hit sitcom Friends were packed into two hectic hours in the absurd spoof Friendsical, whose UK tour reached the Rose Theatre in Kingston this week.
The enduring pull of Ross, Rachel, Chandler, Monica, Phoebe and Joey ensured that the Friendsical auditorium was pretty full for a Monday night. The show moved at breakneck speed but seemed unable to make up its mind what it was: neither full-on satire nor affectionate tribute act.
The deliberately flimsy premise was that Ross was staging a re-enactment of Friends, particularly his on-off relationship with Rachel. This parody of Friends’ lightweight plotlines hinted that we were in for some laughs at the show’s expense. Jamie-Lee Morgan’s manic caricature of Ross’s most annoying personality flaws reinforced that first impression. Charlotte Elisabeth Yorke’s Rachel morphed from an emotional wreck into a harridan with fake breasts, Sarah Goggin’s OCD Monica was gimlet-eyed, and there were repeated digs at the show’s homophobia with scenes of hastily stifled bromance.
But Thomas Mitchells’s believable Chandler seemed to come out of a different show, one that was sticking closer to the original. Meanwhile the scene was repeatedly stolen by Jordan Fox’s Joey, who began as doltish but soon cast off the shackles of Joey’s actual character and soared into the realms of the surreal.
Fox provided the best laughs of the night with his camp portrayal of Chloe, the hot girl from Xerox, who tempts Ross to be unfaithful. “We were on a break!” orange-faced Ross foghorns guiltily, fidgeting in his sweaty pvc trousers.
The dance numbers were the highlights, slickly choreographed by Darren Carnall and performed with vim. It was a pity that copyright seemed to have stopped Friendsical from using the original theme music, as the reworked versions by Barrie Bignold sounded a bit lame by comparison.
Friendiscal provided some enjoyably crazy moments, such as Ally Retberg’s Janice, but failed to live up to its promise of taking the characters somewhere new. Instead it lapsed into a whistle-stop tour of the show’s iconic moments, albeit with zany zing.
“How can you riff on something that is pretty much perfect?” I overhead one fan lamenting, and it’s a question that the show’s writer, lyricist and director Miranda Larson should probably have spent more time thinking about. This was a show for the believers, as detailed Friends knowledge was required. The effect was Marmite: there were cheers at the end from one section of the crowd, while others appeared to be underwhelmed.
Friendsical at The Rose, Kingston