Q&A: ‘FRIENDS! The Musical Parody’ pokes fun, brings sitcom to life

Aaron C. Rutherford plays Chandler Bing in “FRIENDS! The Musical Parody.”

By Eden Bunna

The bustle of New York’s favorite coffee shop, Central Perk, is coming to Chicago Feb. 12 – March 3 as “FRIENDS! The Musical Parody.”

The show will run at Chicago’s Broadway Playhouse, Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut St., and features songs named after fan-favorite lines and memorable moments—including “We Were On a Break!” and “Could I BE Anymore…in Love with You”—while poking fun at the characters from the beloved sitcom “Friends.”

Maggie McMeans, who plays Monica Geller, and Aaron C. Rutherford, who plays Chandler Bing, spoke with The Chronicle about the energy of the show, their characters and what to expect when going to see the musical parody.

THE CHRONICLE: How would you describe the show?

MCMEANS: It’s very fun. The music is really great; it’s super catchy. And that’s [coming from] someone who is super picky about music and musicals. I was very surprised when I heard the music. The show in general is very fast-paced. It’s basically a bunch of jokes from the show back to back to back, condensed. It’s kind of like the hot points of each show in 10 seasons. It’s definitely a parody.

THE CHRONICLE: Are you both fans of the show “Friends”? How well did you know the characters before the show?

MCMEANS: We definitely like “Friends.” The rest of [the cast] is obsessed with it. For impressions and stuff, I’d have to watch the show. Last night, [while watching “Friends”], Monica would say, ‘You’re stealing my thunder!’ and so I’d say, ‘You’re stealing my thunder!’ right after she said the line, and my roommate was like, ‘Maggie, stop.’ I’ll just be copying her like, ‘I know!’ I have to say that a million times like, ‘I know!’ over and over. I do have a song [in the musical] called ‘I Know.’

THE CHRONICLE: Do you feel intimidated playing such beloved characters?

RUTHERFORD: These characters are such a huge part of pop culture, so if you mess them up, people get really upset. It’s hard to walk that line in a show like this where it is a parody—making fun of them without going into that mean-spirited place.

THE CHRONICLE: Do you ever find yourselves acting like the characters outside of the show?

RUTHERFORD: Not only do we start to become more like our characters, but also the only thing I can think about anymore are “Friends” references. No matter what happens, my brain automatically goes to a lyric from our show or a scene from the TV show. I can’t think about anything else. Whenever anyone around me asks anybody how they’re doing, immediately my brain is like, “How you doin’?”

THE CHRONICLE: What would you say to fans considering going to see the show?

MCMEANS: See it, but also, don’t come wanting to see the show [“Friends”] again—we’re poking fun at it. It’s like a mixture of “Friends” and “South Park.” It’s very raunchy, and it’s definitely not “Friends” the show. I can’t say that enough.

RUTHERFORD: Come in without the expectation of seeing the TV show recreated. We do all 10 seasons, but it’s in two hours, so you almost can’t do that without poking fun at it.