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Review: Friendsical at Assembly Rooms Music Hall - Ed Fringe

Review by Carly Fisher

5 friends are hanging out in a local coffee shop. A runaway bride enters the coffee shop - she is a childhood best friend of one of the 5. Adorned in a wedding dress, its only minutes before she is completely entangled within this web of friends, has landed herself a waitressing job at said coffee shop and has become the complete fascination of its owner who is in love with her. Oh, and of her friend’s brother too, of course. Because, well because doesn’t every pretty woman find herself the love interest of two men on their first day in the big city…oh the 90s!

In fact, if we didn’t know and love this crazy plot line so much, we would probably raise a few eyebrows. Instead, if you’re anything like me, you tuned in for 10 seasons of this storyline…well, if I’m being honest, if you’re like me, you haven’t just watched this series once through, or even twice through…no, Friends fans are ride or die.

Far from being the only ‘unauthorised’ Friends musical out there on the market, Friendsical chooses to make its mark with catchy tunes, a clever spoof of a plot wherein we cover 10 years of the show within an hour and close representations of the characters we all know and love so much.

Playing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year, Friendsical is unquestionably a show for the fans! Bringing in as many in jokes and familiar plot lines and plot holes as possible, you definitely want to have an intimate knowledge of Friends to really get the most out of this show.

The actors have clearly studied their characters in detail and aim to bring as many nuances to their portrayal of the character as possible. Much of the humour of Friendsical sits in how intimately they replicate the characterisation initially presented by the cast of Friends in the 1990s, with Tim Edwards as Chandler being a real stand out in this field. Edwards has mirrored Chandler’s voice, hand gestures and signature sarcasm with great precision and still has not lost himself in the character to such a degree that we see only a replica. No, Edwards clearly displays his talent on stage and his comedic timing to boot.

Amelia Kinu Muus is Rachel and again, like Edwards, you have to immediately admire the character work that has gone into replicating a close portrayal of not just Rachel, but of Jennifer Aniston too, poking fun in all the right places, and yet clearly holding a great sincerity and reverence for the role. Muus’ vocals are impressive early in the show - she is a beautiful singer and a solid character actor.

Ally Retberg takes on crowd favourites Phoebe and Janice and does both with perfect hilarity - these characters are so intricate and so well known and Retberg does not shy away from this challenge of giving life and meaning to two characters known for being larger than life. Retberg too has an impressive vocal register that really shines amongst the group.

To be honest, walking into a spoof musical in a Fringe Festival, I didn’t necessarily expect the quality of musical theatre performance that this show delivered on - it was a pleasant and welcomed surprise and was another reminder that Edinburgh is no ordinary Fringe Festival - this is where the best of the best convene and share their stories and this team is no exception.

Miranda Larson and Barrie Bignold’s original music for the show is fun, funny and extremely catchy. Heightened by the inclusion of Darren Carnall’s choreography, each element of the show is clearly designed as a spoof of both Friends and of the 90s but is executed with such sincerity that there is ample opportunity to see the amount of talent involved in this piece. Anthony Lamble’s set is exciting and impressive and not at all what you are seeing in other theatres across the Fringe where tight set up times result in little to no set…instead, this is big, bold and bright and a welcome change to the other shows I have seen this week.

The musical is a comedy about a comedy so there is nothing deep and impactful about what you are seeing - the story is silly but you laugh throughout because the in jokes from the show are perfectly laced through the script, the talent is strong and the songs stay in your head as you walk across Edinburgh to your next show.

A highly enjoyable hour of spoof entertainment.

Image Credit: Dylan Parrin


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