📷 : Nick James
After a successful run at Edinburgh Festival this year, Friendsical is currently touring the UK with Jamie Lee-Morgan in the role of Ross, who narrates the story of the Friends over ten seasons. With his puppetry skills, Jamie has recently finished playing Melman in Madagascar the Musical, and for his first role after graduating, appeared in the West End production of War Horse. We caught up with Jamie about touring with Friendsical, his time as Ross and what audiences can expect from the show.
What can you tell us about playing Ross in Friendsical?
Ross has decided to put on a musical spectacular about the life of the friends over ten years, and also to tell the audience the story of Ross and Rachel. He narrates the story and moves it forward through all ten seasons, which we’ve crammed into a two-hour show.
Was there anything that drew you to the role?
I’ve always been a massive Friends fan, and Ross is my favourite character. I don’t think I could have played any of the other characters. Ross is a lot of fun to play, and we’ve heightened his eccentricities and neurotic side a little bit.
📷 : Dale Wightman
What did you think when hearing the musical numbers for the first time?
I was a huge fan of the musical numbers straight away. It’s funny how well Friends works as a musical! All of the songs have their own individuality, and they help move the story forward because we’re covering a lot of time within a two-and-a-half-hour show, so there is a lot of information in every song. They’re all very catchy, and the songs are all fantastic. We’re not using the Friends theme tune, but we’ve got our own version of it that we’ve put our own spin on, which sounds very close to the original song.
Do you have any similarities with the character?
I would say I have a few similarities with Ross. Our mannerisms are very close, when I’ve finished a show, I find that his mannerisms have stayed with me. We are both probably a little bit geeky and a little bit goofy. I think all of the actors who play the characters look very similar to the originals, and we’re all similar to the characters we play naturally.
📷 : Dale Wightman
How did rehearsals go and how has the tour gone so far?
We are about two months into the tour so far. Rehearsals were about three weeks, which is a short amount of time for a brand-new musical. We learnt a lot in a short time, but the rehearsal process was great fun. We all loved the script straight away, and it was fun to recreate some of the famous moments from Friends. The majority of us were massive Friends fans, so it was great that our homework was to go home and watch Friends. We then opened for two weeks of previews, and then we spent a month in Edinburgh, where we did a cut version of the show. We’re now back to the full version of the show, and we’re running until 2nd November.
How was Edinburgh Festival and did you watch any other shows while there?
Edinburgh was a great experience, but it was very tense because of the sheer volume of shows there. Being in Edinburgh for a month was fantastic, it was so nice to be surrounded by some of the other shows, actors and creatives, and it was a brilliant atmosphere. The show went really, really well for us, we had lots of sold out shows and great crowds. We had quite a big auditorium for Edinburgh, it had about 650 seats, which we were very close to filling at most performances.
I did see quite a lot up there – lots of comedy, stand-up, sketch shows… a bit of everything. There were shows that maybe I wouldn’t see myself in, so I could sit back and relax. I really enjoyed a tap show I saw up there. It’s a lovely place to go and catch up with friends, I had friends in other shows who you don’t necessarily see very often because you’re always on the road, so it’s nice to have everyone in one place.
📷 : Dale Wightman
You’re visiting Worthing on the run, have you performed there previously, and what are you looking forward to for visiting?
No, I haven’t been to Worthing. What’s quite nice about this tour is I’m visiting quite a few places that I haven’t been to before. I don’t know a lot about Worthing, but as a cast, we are quite outgoing, so whenever we turn up to a new venue, we try and make the most of whatever the local place has to offer. I expect we’ll have lots of nights out, do a few cultural trips and make the most of being there. I’m really looking forward to it.
What can audiences expect from the musical?
I think before audiences come, they’re not sure what they are going to see. It’s a brand-new musical, and people aren’t sure whether they are going to appreciate a parody musical of Friends, but I think people will settle into the show and they will have a good night. It’s feel-good, it’s funny, and we cover all the main points of Friends, but we haven’t carbon-copied it, we’ve turned it into our own version. The show sort of feels like a brand-new episode of Friends, just with a few iconic moments thrown in. It’s colourful, the songs are great, the choreography is fantastic, all of the actors on stage are hardworking, and it’s a pleasure to work with everybody. The audience will have a ball for two hours and forget about all of the other stuff going on in the world. It’s two-and-a-half hours of pure enjoyment!
📷 : Dale Wightman
Where did your acting career start?
I started my professional acting career when I graduated from Italia Conti five years ago. My first job was War Horse in the West End, which I was very, very fortunate to be a part of, and that’s where it all began. As a kid, I did a lot of amateur dramatics from a really early age, I stuck with it, and I always knew that acting was something I wanted to do. Luckily things fell into place for me, and I got a place at drama school. I’ve had some lovely opportunities since finishing.
What was Madagascar the Musical like to be part of?
Madagascar was great fun. It’s a really colourful show and is perfect for families. It was really hard work for me because my track was quite physical, Melman (my character) was a puppet and he was extremely heavy. The puppet was on a large rod, and the neck of the giraffe was sat on my shoulders, so I took all the weight of the head on my arms and lower back meaning it was a really physical show for me. It was a really fun show to work on, and again, it was a great group of actors, creatives and crew.
📷 : Dale Wightman
How different are you finding this tour to Madagascar?
Different in lots of ways. This is a smaller company in terms of the volume of people working on it, which is quite nice because you’ve got more of a chance to get to know everyone. It’s nice not having to hold something above my head for two hours! This job is probably more me doing the thing I enjoy the most, and what I’m best at. It’s really nice to be able to do that through an iconic character like Ross. It’s a different type of show, it’s still light-hearted, but this has got so much packed into it. Melman was a principal character, but this is probably the most I’ve had to do which hasn’t involved puppetry.
What would you say is the best part about being in a musical such as Friendsical?
The best part about being in a musical, especially this one, is the fun of it. It sounds a bit cliché, but I have such a good time when I’m on stage, and by the end of the show, we’ve all had such a buzz, we’re so happy and have that enjoyment from being on stage. We get two-and-a-half hours every day having fun, laughing and being goofy. It’s an absolute pleasure to do.
For more information and to book tickets, visit friendsical.com
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