Hasn’t been your day, your week, your month or even your year? Understandable. But a pair of New York City-based parodists-turned-playwrights have a plan to take you back to the 1990s with their musical send-up of the hit TV show “Friends.”
“This is our first national tour so we’re so excited,” said Tobly McSmith, one-half of the Bob and Tobly McSmith playwriting team. “It travels with a cast and crew, it’s starting off with y’all and going on for 30 weeks.”
Tobly, who speaks with a Southern drawl, noted that despite the duo’s history of creating sharp, edgy comedic pieces, “Friends! The Musical Parody” is “a beautiful, musical with heart and laughter and funny songs. We’ve gone from our first musical, with 30 people standing up and no air conditioning, to these huge theaters, and working with composers to make our music beautiful. We’ve really developed in our 15 years of doing this, and we’re proud of what ‘Friends’ is.”
So, what is it, exactly? Well, in “Friends! The Musical Parody,” Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Joey, Ross and Chandler take center stage — along with lesser characters from Janice to Marcel the Monkey — for a show that lovingly lampoons the iconic comedy series, which ran for 10 seasons on NBC. It has a pastiche of original ’90s-pop music — punctuated by Broadway-style show tunes — courtesy of composer Assaf Gleizner, sets by Josh Iacovelli, an eight-actor cast and a funny-naughty-nostalgic book that makes it best for ages 14 and older.
“It’s pretty much a ‘South Park-y’ mentality,” said Bob. “Anything that’s gone over on ‘South Park,’ we don’t cross a line further than they would.”
The McSmiths also try not to cross a line making fun of the original show because they truly love it and know their audience does, too. From original viewers to those who have recently discovered (or rediscovered) “Friends” on Netflix, the show has an appeal that spans generations and inspires a fierce fandom. Bob and Tobly McSmith have approached their source material with respect.
“With a TV show like ‘Friends,’ a parody can be tricky,” said Tobly. “You have to make fun of it and also be true to the audience — but I think we did it.”
They’ve done it a lot. The McSmith oeuvre includes “Full House! The Musical,” “Showgirls! The Musical,” “Katdashians! Break The Musical,” “Bayside! The Saved by the Bell Musical,” “90210! The Musical” and — most recently — “The Office! A Musical Parody!”
Bob and Tobly McSmith are 38: “Over the hill,” said Tobly. “Pretty much dead,” added Bob. Tobly grew up in Austin, Texas, and came to New York to pursue a business career. “I had no idea that musicals would be something that I did,” he said.
Bob is from Maine. “Originally, yes,” he said. “But I’ve been a New Yorker for half my life. We both have. I would say we’re New Yorkers; we’ve been here for 16 years.” He came to the Big Apple to be a songwriter, and while neither McSmith expected to become the playwright-producers they are now, they did start what Tobly called “a really bad band.”
“I play guitar poorly,” explained Bob. “And Tobly plays bass poorest.”
“And I play melodica,” added Tobly as the two cackle with laughter. “And we both play the spoons.”
“We’re experts at spoons,” said Bob. “And that thing where you slap your body and make noise.”
Back then, they had nine-to-five jobs, and the band fed their artistic and creative sides. But it was their love of 1990s sitcoms — and “Weird Al” Yankovic — that took their bohemian-millennial lifestyle to the next level.
“We just decided that we’d write a musical that we would want to go see,” Tobly explained. “That’s when we got started with this, with the ‘Saved by the Bell’ musical. We wanted it to be dirty and fun and fast, parodying stuff that we loved, like ‘Saved by the Bell.’”
All the shows the duo has created “are very dear to our heart in some sort of way,” said Bob. “‘Saved by the Bell’ was from our childhood; ‘Friends’ was from our teenage years. ‘The Office’ is a constant, somewhere we’ve gone for comfort. All these shows are important to us; they’re something we’re connected with.”
Tobly called the parodies “a reflection on these shows, and a love note to them.” He said watching shows like “Friends” allowed him access to “cool kids” despite growing up “uncool,” while Bob reckoned that the sitcom put the idea of moving to New York into his head at an early age — although his first apartment was absolutely nothing like the oversized, comfy abode in which “Friends” is set.
“Our life was very different from theirs, for sure,” noted Tobly. “And so, there was a lot of comedy to be had right there.” Comedy that they both hope will translate as the show moves from its New York City home to theaters all over the country.
“The ‘Friends’ fan base is so rabid,” Bob said. “But they loved it in New York, and we can’t wait for the rest of the country to see it.”
“Friends! The Musical Parody” will be at AMP by Strathmore, 11810 Grand Park Ave., North Bethesda,at 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18 and Friday, Oct. 19. Tickets range from $35 to $40. Call 301 581-5100or visit www.ampbystrathmore.com.