Why RoHo’s musical”Friends” was great
We did not have high expectations nor low expectations. How could you when the Musical Theatre Society were attempting to turn ‘Friends’, the genre-defining American sitcom, into a musical.
What the creators decided to do was not have one or two episodes re-enacted, but something original. It was a unique story of its own, in which Central Perk is at the risk of having to close, sending the owner, Gunther, back to Germany where he is a famous musician.
Fresher Harry Gallow, who attended the opening night performance last Thursday, said his expectations were that, “it would be a quirky interpretation of the Friends TV show.”
The six friends: Ross (Sam Williams), Joey (James Fisher), Chandler (Jack Stevens), Rachel (Charlotte-May Messer), Monica (Georgie King), and Phoebe (Kathryn Pickering) take on the responsibility of raising enough money to keep their favourite spot open.
The show was introduced with “Good Morning, Central Perk,” a derivative of “Good Morning, Baltimore” which was an excellent upbeat way of opening. Others were “Don’t Cry For Me Dear Rachel” by Gunther, an adaptation of “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina,” which comically reminded the audience of the delusions Gunther has about the love between he and Rachel. The performance of “Smelly Cat” by Kathryn Pickering conveyed Phoebe’s quirky personality.
The best song was “Grease Lightning” performed by Joey in his attempt to raise money for Central Perk with a car wash. Fisher worked hard to keep up and stay enthusiastic with the choreography, along with the Joey-like charisma he brought to the performance.
The ensemble that performed in every song and were costumed in Central Perk waiter/waitress attire, were students Sam Barker, Laura Burnett, Grace Strachan, Laura Walker, and Susana Colunga.
Gallow said, “it was an interesting mix of many different episodes, and some new material that didn’t quite fit together with the song choices.” Though he added, “the songs themselves were performed very well.”
The audience was “awwww-ed” on the first night with the brief romantic moment between Ross and Rachel, and it was an especially convincing role, for which Williams dropped his Welsh accent. Most other American accents were done very well, while some came across more Australian.
The other infamous characters, Gunther and Janice were played by Michael Pomeroy and Daniella Liburd. Janice’s attachment to Chandler and Gunther’s delusion over Rachel were some of the funniest moments, and the entire audience did not hesitate to laugh.
Back stage, the show would not have been a success without Director and Writer Pippa Gentry; Musical Director and Assistant Musical Director Ellie Smit and Tom Search; Choreographer Ashleigh Wilmot; Producers Michelle Archer and Alinka Deane; and Stage Managers Eryn Filiponi and Olivia Stein.
It was not only funny, quirky, and creative with very talented actors and singers, but it was the perfect medium for a nostalgic cure. After ten years of re-runs since the Friends season finale aired, we got to watch one last unseen episode.