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Friends
Photo by Russ Rowland

How You Doin? If you’ve just come from watching Friends! The Musical Parody at St. Luke’s Theatre, chances are that your  answer will be “quite fine.” Your side might be sore from fits of laughter, but it’s a nominal side effect for such enjoyable medicine.

Joey Tribbiani’s (Alan Trinca) famous pickup line is just one of the many send-ups set to catchy music in the latest offering from Bob and Tobly McSmith. The couple who describe themselves as “huggable weirdos who met at a Girl Scout Cookie Convention” has given us an irresistibly hilarious night of comedy.Previously, they skewered television shows including Beverly Hills 90210, Full House, The Kardashians, Saved By the Bell, and others.  Now, they are back to roast Chandler (Seth Blum), Monica (Lisa Graye), Phoebe (Katie Johantgen), Rachel (Patricia Sabulis), Ross (Landon Zwick), and Joey.

Photo by Russ Rowland

Devoted fans of the immensely successful sitcom will surely recognize most of the references and supporting characters. Chandler’s one-time girlfriend, Janice appears (in high camp fashion by Blum). Monica’s boyfriend, Richard Burke, is also thrown into the mix. Tom Selleck, who played him in the TV series, is hyperbolized with geriatric joviality (again by Blum).

The casting could not be finer. Each player captures the essence of their television counterparts in a manner that  is self-deprecating, but never mean-spirited or ridiculing.  Having watched the original source material will no doubt enhance the experience. Yet this cast–under Paul Stancato’s smart direction- is so skilled at parody and sketch comedy, that even a total newcomer to the series will be in for a treat.  Assaf Gleizner’s bouncy melodies are endearing and keep the quick-witted comedy moving ahead at full speed.

At a recent performance before showtime, audience members were mingling outside the lobby, awaiting drinks from the bar. A spirited sing-along of the TV show’s theme song erupted: The Rembrandts’ “I’ll Be There For You.” For those in search of escapist, communal fun, it’s a comfort to know that the McSmiths are in fact, there for us.

Quality theater doesn’t necessarily have to contain serious drama or deep philosophical thought to gain merit. Sometimes, reminiscing with old pals at a familiar coffee shop is more than enough.

Friends! The Musical Parody has been extended through March 31, 2018 at St. Luke’s Theatre 308 West 46th Street – between 8th & 9th Avenues). For tickets and information, visit:  www.friendsmusicalparody.com

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