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Friday, July 26, 2019

The Movie Report #1030, July 26, 2019

The Movie Report

#1030, July 26, 2019


  • Honeyland ***
  • Looking Up ***
  • Mike Wallace Is Here ***
  • Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood ** Q&A video with Leonardo DiCaprio

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Saturday, July 20, 2019

F3Stage Review: Must See TV makes for breezy theater in Friends! The Musical Parody

Film Flam Flummox

As someone who not only regularly watched Friends during its historic original ten-season run that began 25 (!) years ago this coming fall but still watches the syndicated reruns on a near-nightly basis as background late night comfort food, I'm not exactly the best person to most accurately assess the stand-alone, self-contained merits of Friends! The Musical Parody, whose North America tour production is currently stationed at Center Theatre Group's Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City.  However, that über-familiarity with the influential, iconic NBC sitcom makes me all the more appreciative, impressed, if not downright stunned at just how much material writers/lyricists Bob and Tobly McSmith and director Tim Drucker pack and condense into this a breathless 90 minutes over two acts.  The feeling I had while in the theatre must be akin to what devotees of The Brady Bunch while watching The Brady Bunch Movie and A Very Brady Sequel in the cinema in the '90s, with a stream of nostalgic references to individual episodes as constant and unwavering as the gags.

Luckily for those in the audience, Friends fan and non-fan alike, just as constant and unwavering is the boundless spark and enthusiasm of the terrific ensemble.  While stellar chemistry between its core sextet of actors appropriately mirrors that of their forebears on the tube, also like the original six, each individually brings their own distinct energy and approach to their respective characters, who do register as appealing comic creations regardless of previous familiarity.  As one would expect with a parody production, a number of the cast members go for more spot-on impressions, namely Madison Fuller's accurate capturing of the daffy charm of Lisa Kudrow's Phoebe Buffay; Domenic Servidio's recreation of lovable lunk-headed lothario Joey Tribbiani, originally essayed by Matt LeBlanc; and Sami Griffith's downright eerie channelling of Jennifer Aniston's inflections, mannerisms, and facial expressions as spoiled little runaway bride Rachel Green.  The others--Maggie McMeans as Courteney Cox's neurotic neat freak Monica Geller, Aaron C. Rutherford as Matthew Perry's ever-wisecracking Chandler Bing; Tyler Fromson as David Schwimmer's geeky, oft-married Ross Geller--go for less literal, more spiritual impressions.  Adding additional spice are Jenna Cormey and Nick Palazzo, who turn up at various supporting characters/guest stars.  The contrast in approaches, much like that in the personalities of the characters, help keep the silly proceedings from being one-note.

Indeed, silly it all is, and any newcomers to all things Friends will likely be hard pressed to find a completely coherent narrative through-line, especially given that the show compresses an entire decade's worth of "Must See TV" into 90 minutes, with the McSmiths and Drucker wisely using the intermission to skip over some years.  But even if all of the events and that steady stream of in-jokes and episode references fly clear over the heads of non-fans, everyone would get the appeal of the completely original songs composed by Asaaf Gleizner, which runs the gamut of sounds from traditional showtunes to pop to even hip-hop.  That last note is another  example of how the experience is further enhanced by viewership of the original show, referencing Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back," which was central to one late season episode; and the McSmiths cleverly build a few tunes out of characters' signature catchphrases and notable dialogue, even having cheeky fun with how, due to copyright restrictions, this Phoebe cannot sing her infamous ditty "Smelly Cat" (which is an even deeper-reaching reference for fans since she, on the original show, was ultimately barred from performing it).  Billy Griffin's choreography matches the high spirits of the production and makes good use of the entire ensemble throughout.  Even if the dancing isn't the most complicated nor intricate, nor are the cast members great dancers, the sheer exuberance sells the movements.

And that exuberance, inviting and infectious, infuses and sells the entire production.  Friends! The Musical Parody, with its functional but still evocative scenic design by Josh Iacovelli (a dual-sided sofa that is rotated to serve as Monica's couch and that at coffeehouse hangout Central Perk is an example of that perfect balance of imagination and practicality), and spot-on but equally no-frills costuming by David Rigler, may somewhat remind of a live sketch/improv show on the physical production level.  But like such a show, its ultimate success is really dependent on the timing and talents of the troupe, and they most definitely bring the fun and funny.

Aaron C. Rutherford as Chandler Bing, Sami Griffith as Rachel Green,
Madison Fuller as Phoebe Buffay, Maggie McMeans as Monica Geller,
Domenic Servidio as Joey Tribbiani, Tyler Fromson as Ross Geller
(photo courtesy Right Angle Entertainment)

Friends! The Musical Parody is now playing at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City through Sunday, August 4; the touring company then moves on to other cities throughout North America through the end of August.

Buy the Friends The Complete Series Blu-ray here.
Buy the Friends The Complete Series DVD here.

(Special thanks to Right Angle Entertainment and Patty Onagan Consulting)

The Movie Report wants to attend and cover all your live stage productions! Please send any and all invitations to this address. Thanks!

Friday, July 19, 2019

The Movie Report #1029, July 19, 2019

The Movie Report

#1029, July 19, 2019


  • Crawl ***
  • The Lion King ** 1/2
  • Super 30 ** 1/2
  • The White Storm 2: Drug Lords ** 1/2

The Movie Report wants to attend and cover all your film events and press junkets! Please send any and all invitations to this address. Thanks!

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