A Ten-Season Favourite Wrapped Up In A Tidy Tale
Riverside Theatre – Sydney Season
Reviewed by Chris Duncan
When it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month or even your year, the cast of FRIENDS! The Musical Parody are bound to bring a smile to your dial! Produced as a send-up of the long-running TV sitcom Friends to avoid heavy copyright and licencing fees, the comedy draws on all the favourite moments and sub-plots of the ten-season TV-tale. Song lyrics are uncannily similar, evoking the essence of the beloved characters and storylines. The audience plunges eagerly into the world of Joey, Chandler, Monica, Phoebe, Rachel and Ross as familiar riffs and dialogue immerse us into the world of the Central Perk and Monica’s New York apartment.
The show is generally well cast with Annie Chiswell (Shrek, Mamma Mia!) as Monica, Belinda Jenkin (50 Shades! The Musical Parody, Top Gun the Musical) in the role of Phoebe, Eleanor Macintyre (The Hello Girl, Sweet Charity) as Rachel. WAPPA graduate Maverick Newman (The King and I, Spring Awakening) as Chandler, Conor Putland (Once On This Island, Dogfight) as Joey, and Tyran Stig (The Drowsy Chaperone, Little Shop of Horrors) in the role of Ross. Dom Hennequin (Violet, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) plays Gunther and Joey’s agent Estelle, while Callum O’Malley (The Wind in the Willows) and Lucinda Wilson (Grease) are the swings. For the Sunday matinee I attended, Callum played the role of Chandler brilliantly with drag-like appearances as ‘Janice’ which was an understaged highlight!
The only cast member who doesn’t quite pull off the mannerisms and essence of their character is Annie as Monica. Although a brilliant actor and singer, Chiswell’s performance doesn’t quite capture the quirky awkwardness of ‘Monica’ in all its glory.
Belinda Jenkin is excellent as the far-fetched Phoebe who manages to pull off the modified ‘Smelly Mom’ (instead of ‘Smelly Cat’) together with navigating the mayhem that is Phoebe’s life with exceptional eccentricity throughout the entire show.
The storylines of the first three seasons are covered within the first ‘half’ of the show. Although there is no intermission as such, the cast deliver a hilarious jazz-hand-heavy mash-up of the several seasons in a vaudevillian-style summary before arriving at Phoebe’s pregnancy, Monica and Chandler dating in-cognito, Joey dressed as an armadillo and Ross becoming a father to Ben with a partner other than Rachel.
Cameron Mitchell has captured the choreography of the 90’s brilliantly with comedic caricatured movement accentuating and amplifying each cast-members’ eccentricities and life-struggles.
The audience eagerly embraced every ‘Friend-ism’ erupting in uproar easily and often. The atmosphere was definitely charged with awesome comedic energy from the pre-show warm-up by Dom Hennequin right through to the closing umbrella bouquet.
Definitely a show worth seeing for Friend-lovers – just don’t expect the original songs or authentic script. The parodied version is a cleverly constructed production bringing together the essence of ten seasons of a time-honoured TV tale.