Meet Tyler Fromson: playing Ross Geller in the new FRIENDS musical parody; opens this week on Broadway in Chicago
Fri. February 15, 2019 by Matt Inawat
It's super fast-paced. There's dancing in it. I wear an armadillo head. It's crazy.
FRIENDS! The Musical Parody runs for a limited three-week engagement through March 3 at Broadway In Chicago’s Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place.
We had a heart-to-heart with the uber-talented Tyler Fromson, currently performing on stage as Ross Geller (played by David Schwimmer in the TV series). Fromson has also appeared in theatrical productions of Saturday Night Fever (Bobby C, Royal Caribbean Productions), Little Shop of Horrors (Seymour), Newsies (Romeo), Urinetown (Bobby Strong), Einstein Is A Dummy (Albert), and A Midsummer Night's Dream (Demetrius).
The show is a comedic musical that lovingly pokes fun at TV’s "Friends", celebrating the adventures of your favorite TV circle of friends as they navigate the pitfalls of work, life and love in 1990s Manhattan. The new musical recreates favorite moments from all 10 years of "Friends" through an uncensored, fast-paced, music-filled production.
MI: (Matt Inawat) Hi Tyler, thanks for taking the time to chat and congratulations on the role of Ross on "FRIENDS! The Musical Parody."
TF: (Tyler Fromson) Yeah, it's exciting!
MI: So tell us a little bit about the show. What would fans love about it that brings back memories from the original TV show? And what's completely different and brilliant about the musical?
TF: So first and foremost, it's a parody. So we not only make fun of the show but we make fun of the characters and the actors as well - it's presented in a very lighthearted way. We hit on all the major clock winds of the TV show. And it's also a musical. So we do a song and dance. And each character kind of has their own little moment and has their own song. And people won't be disappointed because it's really like a tribute to the show as well.
People leave the show saying, "You brought me back to the TV show. I really missed it. I watched this every week and it was just part of my life for a long time." People are loving it.
MI: So what drew you to the project? And what drew you to the role of Ross Geller, who, in the TV show, was played by David Schwimmer - a graduate of Northwestern University and co-founder of the Tony Award-winning Lookingglass Theatre Company here in Chicago.
TF: Yeah. I've actually just found that out! I didn't know that. I've never done parody before.
It's a different form of theater, I would say. The energy is more heightened and everything is kind of taken to the next level. So it was more of a challenge for me which is kind of why I took the project because as an actor, I'm always looking to challenge myself. And so that kind of presented a nice, fun challenge for me.
MI: Yeah, definitely. So what is your absolute favorite thing about the show?
TF: Probably the audience interaction. There's several parts where the audience kind of knows the lines before we say them and that's always really fun because it feels like the audience is playing along with us and making them feel a part of it as well.
MI: That's pretty cool. So they're lines from the original show?
TF: Yeah, we kind of steal a lot of the famous catch phrases from the show.
So they'll know a line is coming - that's such an iconic line. They know exactly what we're going to say before we even say it because it's so ingrained in the pop culture, you know? People, they know the lines off the top of their head.
MI: Do you have a personal favorite scene or song from the musical that hits deep?
TF: Right after the intermission, the second opening song is called, "We Are On a Break". And it plays off the fact that Ross and Rachel are taking a break in their relationship. And basically what the song does is it kind of goes through, it's like a hit list of a bunch of things that happened in the show that they couldn't fit into the actual musical. And they kind of play it off in a way that's like, "while we're on a break, all this happened."
It's super fast-paced. There's dancing in it. I wear an armadillo head. It's crazy.
MI: So let's talk a little bit about your own personal story. Where'd you grow up and how did you get involved in theater?
TF: I'm from Kansas City, right in the heart of the Midwest. I started doing musicals in high school and my first musical was, "Singin' In the Rain". I just fell in love with it. That's just kind of how everyone gets into theater. They start doing it and they realize that it's what they're meant to be doing.
I went to Pepperdine University to study theater and music there. I just continued on from there and just moved to New York last year. I've only been there for about a year.
Yeah, so it kind of just happened. In high school I was like, this is what I'm meant to do!
MI: What's your most memorable experience on stage?
TF: I worked for Royal Caribbean for two years on two of their ships. That was probably the coolest performing experience that I've had so far.
I performed in "Saturday Night Fever" on one of their ships. That was incredible - I worked with amazing people and we got to travel the world on a cruise ship. I haven't done anything that has match to that yet.
MI: Yeah, that sounds like a pretty awesome experience.
TF: Yeah, it was amazing. And it was fun to do that specific show on the ship as well because it was just like full on production - but on a ship. So if you've ever been on a ship to see shows, it's incredible what they can do on a ship floating in the water, you know?
MI: Any acting or performance influences? Or someone who might have inspired you over the years?
TF: I'm actually the only person in my family that has pursued acting or theater in any way. But I would probably say my parents because they kind of allowed me as a kid to do what I wanted. Not in a bad way but they gave me the freedom to choose what I wanted to do with my life.
And that has definitely shaped who I am because it kind of gave me that blank slate. They didn't push me in a certain direction and say, "You're a boy and you have to play sports." They gave me the freedom to choose what I enjoy doing and what I have the passion for.
MI: Are you pretty familiar with Chicago?
TF: I've actually only been once. And it was in the summertime so it's going to be a completely different experience.
MI: Any sightseeing planned? What are you looking forward to the most as far being in Chicago the next few weeks?
TF: Yeah, it's definitely the food. And definitely Boystown. I've heard good things about that. I don't know, just the culture there seems really cool. And when I was there, it reminded me a lot of New York. But it has its own unique feel. And so I'm excited to explore more of it.
MI: So what would your advice for young people thinking about getting into the theater business?
TF: I think it's just about being yourself. That's just like a cliché that we say, but it's true. If you are serious about getting into theater, people aren't looking for stereotypes. They're not looking for copycats or things that have been done before. They're looking for unique personalities, people who are comfortable being themselves. And I think that's the most beautiful thing about theater is that you're able to do that.
So that would be my advice, is just to be yourself and also to work hard.
MI: Any charities or causes that are personally important to you?
TF: Homelessness, I think that theater could really change that as well. I really think that if Chicago works with New York on a lot of those things, like a partnership, that could be huge.
MI: So, in closing, Is there a dream role in any musical that you'd love to do?
TF: Wow, that's a good question. I actually would love to be in "Dear Evan Hanson." I've auditioned for it a few times in New York. One audition I went into was an open call for the role of Evan Hanson. And there were probably about 500 boys there.
And they all looked the same. So it's a phenomenon right now. I'm hoping that the musical sticks around for a while because I would love to be in that show. I think it's a gorgeous show.
MI: So one final question for you. If you could sum up your life in a musical title, what would that title be?
TF: Probably something like, "Midwest Boy Takes on the Concrete Jungle" or something like that. Because that's kind of how I felt. I'm not from a small town. Kansas City is a big city. But when you move from that New York... so that's kind of how I've felt.
MI: Hey Tyler, thanks again for the chat. Enjoy the city and have fun with the musical!
TF: Yeah, thank you so much!
The show's creators and writers, Bob and Tobly McSmith, have also written/created "Bayside! The Saved by the Bell Musical" (NYTimes Critic Pick), "90210! The Musical," and "The Office! A Musical Parody!"
Individual tickets are currently on sale and range in price from $35-$87 with a select number of premium tickets available. Tickets are available now for groups of 10 or more by calling Broadway In Chicago Group Sales at (312) 977-1710. For more information, visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com.