Friendsical the Musical at The Orchard Theatre

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As a fan of the 90’s sitcom Friends (which as the name suggests, this musical is all about) I was a little wary of this show.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Friends and I love musicals but, the 2 together? However, I needn’t have worried.  Friendsical was absolutely everything I wanted it to be.

The opening started with the familiar intro to the theme tune but soon got swept into a crazy, opening number that left the audience feeling ‘what are we watching?!’ but once settled in to the madness, this was a fun night.

As explained by the actors in the opening dialogue we were watching the actors, playing the friends characters, as actors in their own show…..hmmmm just go with it! We also learn to let go of timelines as the extremely talented cast bring us classic moment after classic moment, not always in the chronological order that Friends aficionados will remember.

The whole show is narrated by Ross Geller played by the undeniably talented Nelson Bettencourt.  I know the actors are not supposed to be impersonations of the characters, but I felt Ross was more ‘Nelson’ than ‘Ross’ and I would’ve like to have seen the Ross physical quirks a little bigger and more obvious.  However, saying this, Bettencourt does manage to move the story along nicely and displays some great comedy moments (the Bikini being a particular highlight!)

The other characters do display some great physical and vocal similarities to the original characters, particular highlights come from Tim Edwards as Chandler, who perfectly captured the movements of Chandler including the ‘best you’ve ever had’ dance and Ally Retberg as Phoebe/Janice who seamlessly slips between her excitable, dreamy Phoebe and the self-assured, distinctive voiced Janice and displayed real star quality throughout.

It took a while for me to spot the mannerisms of Rachel and Monica played by Amelia Muus and Sarah Michelle-Kelly respectively, but once I found them, I couldn’t stop seeing them, their stance and movement in particular were very reminiscent of their counterparts. Sario Solomons brought the excitement and foolishness of Joey well, I just would’ve like to see a bit more of this character in the storylines told.

The first act whizzes through the first few seasons, acknowledging some of the discrepancies from the show cleverly, and we get a taste of all of the major lines and scenes ‘Could I be wearing any more clothes’ ‘Pivot’ ‘It’s a moo-point’ with some cleverly being made into songs ‘He’s her Lobster’ being a particular highlight.  I’m not sure whether it’s the venue or the backing track volume that made it very difficult for us to hear some of the lyrics when all cast members were singing in unison, however, this was more of an irritant than a problem.  The signing across the board was fantastic from all cast members including Olivia Williamson and Tanveer Singh Devgun who play multiple roles throughout the show with expertise.

Director, Miranda Larson, makes clever use of the single set which just changes (very swiftly) between the 2 apartments and Central Perk giving us enough of each to let us know where the action is taking place.

You may have noticed that I am quite hesitant to mention the celebrity guest star which at the venue in Dartford is Harry Judd.  I think the idea of the celebrity guest star is a great one as a real nod to the series undertaking the exact same thing. However, I’m not sure that the way it was written in worked well enough.  Judd himself was personable and talented and made a great pizza delivery, but there was just something about the ‘celebrity guest’ which didn’t really sit right.

The second act focuses mainly on trying to get everyone to Ross’ dinosaur convention, and I do feel that this is the weaker of the 2 acts, maybe it’s because there isn’t much new material brought in for this act, or maybe it’s that there is too much focus on one or two areas of the 10 series, but it didn’t convey as much humour as the first act. Although I did love the Emily touch and ‘We don’t know’ was also an excellent and extremely clever number.

Overall, Friendsical The Musical is a great show, with some insanely talented performers.  And if you are a Friends fan then this hits all of the right spots, providing a very enjoyable evening’s entertainment!

Review by Amy Farlie

To find out more about Friendsical you can visit their website.

If you like this review of Friendsical The Musical you might also like my review of Life of Pi, Footloose and & Juliet.

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