By Marcina Zaccaria . . .
With an energetic cast, the fast-paced Friends! A Musical Parody is a joy.
The original TV show, Friends, had so many memorable moments. Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Chandler, Joey, and Ross were the lovable folks from next door, sweating out their days in NYC, waiting tables at Central Park after bounding through their oversized apartment, getting through romantic relationships and tough times. On the air for 10 years, their day’s journey became a cherished part of sit-com history.
So, it was a joy to relive these moments on a small stage. While the story is packed into tight, clever bits that don’t fail to bring a chuckle, the joy is in the recognition of the phrasing and mannerism that we’d seen so often.
Characters breeze by the bar, lounge on the couch, or jump on the only table in the set. Images and emotions are processed quickly. The sit-com’s strength was never in discovering depths of emotion, this musical parody is a bit the same. With Book & Lyrics by Bob and Tobly McSmith and Music by Assaf Gleinzner, there is never time to delve into Rachel’s joy of newfound love (played by Sami Griffith) or Phoebe’s astonishing birth of triplets. Each moment flies by. Opportunities for humor abound. But, in the end, who will be there for who?
Choreography by Billy Griffin is thrillingly coordinated with each moment perfectly in sync. With entrances from the aisles, the space seems larger than it is. Maybe it’s their leaping on the stage that makes you want to sing out loud with direction by Tim Drucker. Which character would you like to sing along to the most? Would it be Phoebe (Jenna Cormey), the folk singer with the guitar, re-interpreting her classic “stinky cat” song? Perhaps, it would be Joey (Domenic Servidio), the wannabe actor, always testing the grounds while trying to make it big. Before you decide that it’s dark-haired Monica (Maggie McMeans) – with that really big sound – know that the zingers and the harmonies will make you wish for really big musical theater again. Costumes by David Rigler are bright and fun, and even if all sounds a bit predictable by Act II, the new looks keep us engaged.
Remembering the 90s with Friends is a great experience of nostalgia, and the Jerry Orbach Theater proved to be a tight, packed space with a fine audience, ready to enjoy each bit of this musical celebration. Though it only winks at today’s understanding of relationships as it replays lightly controversial moments of the 90s, the parody gets you to break into a smile before applauding the broad theatrics that we’ve always loved in the musical theater.
Other cast members include: Nick Anastasia (Ross), AC Rutherford (Chandler, others), Lauren J. Bell (swing), Coldin Grundmeyer (swing/dance captain).
Friends! The Musical Parody will be running until September 19 at The Jerry Orbach Theater, located at 210 West 50th Street.