Smash together 10 seasons’ worth of the ’90s hit TV show 'Friends' on stage and you’ll get exactly what you came for: a whole lot of Rachel, Ross, Monica, Chandler, Phoebe and Joey. Could it be any more fun?
The off-broadway show takes all of your favourite quotes, jokes, and storylines, and puts them together in a fast-paced whirlwind of an evening, making it a familiar, yet hilarious spin-off that any 'Friends' fan can appreciate.
Cleverly avoiding copyright (only just, in some instances!), you can sing, dance and bop along to music by Assaf Gleizner and choreography by Cameron Mitchell that brings out the best, and sometimes worst, parts of fan-favourite scenes, and ties them all together with a harmonious chorus that summarises what we have all been thinking for 20-something years (Rachel and Ross – will they, or won’t they? And how on earth can Monica afford that apartment? The age old questions!)
But of course, the musical element can only be as good as the cast that performs it, and this cast was almost perfectly chosen for the roles. An absolute stand-out was Annie Chiswell as Monica, who perfectly encapsulated the OCD clean freak that we all know and love, almost better than Courteney Cox herself, and absolutely rocked her fat suit when playing Fat Monica. Belinda Jenkin took Phoebe’s intrinsically whiny voice and habits of saying all the wrong things at the wrong times, and performed them near perfection on the stage. Tyran Stig and Eleanor Macintyre played Ross and Rachel to a tee, not missing a single screechy ‘I’m fine’ or hair flip at any stage throughout the show. And Callum O'Malley was an exceptional choice as Joey Tribbiani, and from the moment he walked onto the stage, his ‘how you doin’ and facial expressions as we followed the course of his career across the stage was almost like watching Matt LeBlanc in real life.
Maverick Newman’s characters, namely Chandler and others, felt undercooked, forced, and a little hard to watch. Although we appreciated the quirks they tried to encapsulate with his characters, it felt a little more cringy than necessary.
Overall, the way the characters talked, moved, and incorporated each of their respective 'Friends’ character's quirks was exceptionally well done. We constantly found ourselves laughing at the fact that Rachel does sound like that, and that’s exactly how Monica would have danced The Routine. There’s no doubt that enormous preparation went into the development of each of the characters, which paid off tremendously in the show.
Image © Oliver Toth, Accent Photography
The attention to detail wasn’t just in the characters – the way the show played across the stage was excellent. Everything from the red sweater and layout of Monica’s kitchen, to the subtle switch of numbers on the door during the reenactment of season one, it was clear that the production team had spent a good amount of time studying, understanding, and making the scenes of 'Friends' come to life. Starting with the infamous intro in front of the fountain, followed by the iconic Central Perk, and of course Monica and Rachel’s apartment, the switches between each scene were seamless and remarkably well done.
Of course, being a parody, you’ll find yourself cringing, wanting to close your eyes but you just can’t, and feeling a little put out when, 20 years on, there’s still no acknowledgement of a multicultural New York City and no empathy towards LGBTQIA+ people, or those with mental illnesses (but you didn’t come for that, did you?). The accentuation of the characters' ticks and quirks also perfectly fit into the parody category, with Janice’s already painfully screechy voice resembling nails on a chalkboard, and Chandler’s awkward sense of humour just a little more awkward than we remember. This is less of a ‘feel good’ show, and more of a ‘look how badly 'Friends' has aged’ reminder.
This is also absolutely not the show to bring that sibling or friend who has never watched the original series to. With so many inside jokes, subtle character quirks, missing details in storylines, and direct quotes, with no background knowledge of the TV show it would be very hard to keep up with.
The performance is a solid 90-minute, fast-paced show that will leave you out of breath from laughing, singing along, and just trying to keep up with the enormous amount of dialogue. We had a kick-you-in-the-crotch, spit-on-your-neck fantastic time, and if you’re a die-hard 'Friends' fan, we’re sure you will too.
Friends! The Musical Parody Tour Dates
Until 24 July – The Tivoli (Brisbane) 9-11 September – Regal Theatre (Perth) 23 November-17 December – Athenaeum Theatre (Melbourne)