Friendsical (Ashcroft Playhouse)

“No one told you life was gonna be this way”. So goes the theme tune of a thousand repeats since the Gellers, Bings, Tribbianis, Buffays and Greens left Central Perk.

Now in the final week of its 2019 tour, this parody musical, taking gentle aim at the characters and plotlines of long-running US sitcom Friends proves to be more successful in fits and starts than as a whole.

I’d expect a parody to take the inspiration and run with it, and the moments which hit that expectation do well. It isn’t just regurgitation or imitation, there needs to be something more: the huge coffee cups in Central Perk and the recurring steps out of the scene are a good start.

The portrayals of Ross (likeable dork, essayed well by Jamie-Lee Morgan), Chandler (eternal loser with mannerisms perfectly imitated by Thomas Mitchells), Monica (manaical cleaning and nervous energy from Sarah Goggin), Gunther (love-lorn and quietly sardonic, Duncan Burt) and Janice (of the braying laugh, Rebecca Withers) are definite highlights.

The songs by Miranda Lawson and Barrie Bignold are funny in fits and starts but the sound at the Ashcroft (which is also extremely chilly) felt a little muted and muddy, and some lyrics were lost.

A routine around Game Night, with buzzers, was amusing, and Ross and Rachel’s duet “You’re Over Me, When Were You Under Me?” plays well, but Joey’s comparison of seduction to ice cream just made me like him less.

You also need sn encyclopedic knowledge of the original show: if you do, you’ll recognise bits and pieces that will make you amused, but you may also long for the originals of some of the characters (Joey, in particular, just didn’t gel for me, despite Jordan Fox’s best efforts).

Friendsical is so called because it is a musical based on Friends, which is undoubtedly true – but I’m not sure that even with the character traits of the six friends and those on the periphery heightened just enough to send them up, this isn’t just a copy of some of the TV show’s best bits, with added song and dance.

With another Friends parody musical announced for the UK, and a 2020 return planned for Friendsical, this is a franchise that shows no sign of slowing down.

Now, where’s that remote? I wonder which vintage episode is on TV tonight?

Photos by Dale Wightman.