In yet more 90s nostalgia, reincarnations of New York’s best-loved Friends hit the Fringe with a musical version of their entire history. It’s no mean feat to fit that many episodes into an hour and a half – with original tunes. And while they cover a lot of ground, they do so at such speeds it’s nothing short of frantic.
The cast is made up of excellent singers and dancers. But the combination of a poor sound setup and songs written at consistently high pitches, unfortunately, makes for a shrill audio experience. In terms of representing the characters and apt casting, it’s mixed. Thomas Mitchells as Chandler, Sarah Goggin as Monica and Duncan Burt as Gunther work very well and they are great to watch. Ally Retberg is believable enough as Phoebe and pretty good as Janice, as is Jordan Fox as Joey, who provides plenty of laughs.
Jamie Lee-Morgan is miscast and seems to be channelling Sheldon Cooper as Ross. He nails a couple of Ross’s more geeky gestures really well, but then just constantly repeats these, creating a camp and one-dimensional effect. Charlotte Elisabeth Yorke is especially miscast as Rachel. While she’s pretty good at capturing her voice, she and Ross have zero chemistry together – an element that was so pivotal to the original show.
It’s arguably more important to stay relatively true to the essence of the original than to have actors who sing and dance perfectly. In fact, in this context, it’s more fun if they don’t. So the casting is perplexing.
The final song is the best segment of the show and provides an upbeat, fun-filled ending. The inclusion of familiar tropes is enjoyable and the script is ok, with some on-point parody. But it’s far too crammed into the timeframe, and there’s often a lack of overall warmth that calls to question whether this was created by real fans of the show. It feels less like a loving teasing of a show that’s still the most-watched on Netflix and more of a commercial vehicle riding on someone else’s wave. It’s a missed opportunity, and it’s a pity. With some re-casting and a lot of tweaking, Friendsical could still be really good. Let’s hope someone saves it.
You can see Friendsical at Assembly Rooms until 25th August at 13:00. For tickets, please visit www.edfringe.com