America’s favorite workplace takes center stage

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America’s favorite workplace takes center stage

Henry Owens, Staff Writer

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As a musical theatre nerd who is also addicted to The Office, I was intrigued when I heard about the off-Broadway show, “The Office: A Musical Parody.” Could a two-hour musical really do justice to my favorite TV show? I was skeptical, but I decided to walk in with an open mind and Jim Halpert outfit alongside Michael Scott, played by my sister.

After entering the miniature lobby of the theatre complex on 50th street and climbing two flights of stairs, I saw a small concession stand and Stanley Hudson selling merchandise outside the theatre.

The theatre itself was very small; less than two hundred seats surround three sides of a tiny stage. Three cluttered desks in the middle and reception off to the side comprised the onstage office of Dunder Mifflin.

The lights went down, and from the darkness came the sound of a phone ringing and a familiar “Dunder Mifflin, this is Pam.” Roy slammed down paper, Jim tapped his pen, and Dwight shushed the audience as the percussion to a very entertaining opening number.

It started out with just the voices and sounds from onstage, with a prerecorded instrumental accompaniment later joining in. The words “Welcome to Scranton” were set to the iconic theme song, with an occasional, “Scranton! What? The electric city!” thrown in. There was only minimal choreography and much of the singing was done sitting or standing in place, but the simplicity and humor of this opening number were enjoyably reminiscent of the TV show.

The musical was jam packed with as many plot points and inside jokes from the TV show as physically possible. They managed to fit it all in, which must have been very hard. As an Office fan, it was fun seeing all my favorite moments from the show on stage. The retellings of familiar bits were enjoyable, but it was even more exciting to see new interpretations and twists on old material.

I did have some trouble suspending disbelief when Pam went from engaged to Roy, to being married to Jim within a day. In that same day, Stamford got shut down, Sabre bought the company, Michael left, Dwight became manager (twice), and the whole gang celebrated Christ-oween-diwal-ukah-birthda-earthda-kwanza. The individual moments were fun, but as a whole, the plot of the musical was chaotic and illogical.

In addition to the many references from the TV show, there were also random pop culture references, including a Handmaid’s Tale moment and an entire Hamilton song parody. There were no particular reasons for these, but they did emphasize that this show truly was a parody. It was not trying to recreate the Office, but rather poke fun at it.

Another interesting feature of this production was the double casting. Only eight actors played the twenty-something roles in the show. Most of these characters were highly exaggerated and unrealistic, with all their quirks, flaws, and traits from the show heavily amplified. Actor Tom McGovern did an excellent job playing both Jim Halpert and Andy Bernard. Both characters were distinct, with Jim extra laid back and Andy even more of a WASP.

However, this exaggeration didn’t work as well for other characters. I felt uncomfortable from how much Rita Posillico’s portrayals of Karen Filippelli and Oscar Martinez were based on cheap Italian and Mexican stereotypes. While this might have been reflective of the TV show’s politically incorrect nature, I think some parts of the source material are better left in the past.

As a fan of the Office, I did have a good time seeing my favorite show in a new and creative way. But from an artistic standpoint, The Office: A Musical Parody is nothing exceptional. The actors all did their jobs well enough, but the writing wasn’t nearly as funny as it should have been, and the music was boring and forgettable.

If you’ve watched the Office for the twelfth time and want to experience it in a new way, then you very well might enjoy the musical. But if you’re looking for quality theatre in New York City, The Office: A Musical Parody is a long way down that list.