Joe Szekeres, Chief Toronto Critic
NOTE: I have never watched any episodes of ‘The Office’, neither the British nor the American versions.
I had no inkling whatsoever to watch ‘The Office’ probably for the fact that I felt a school setting was different from a typical office setting. After watching this ‘off Mirvish’ production, I realized there really wasn’t that much of a difference as the oddball characters in an office setting could also be found in a school setting. If the goofy characters from ‘Seinfeld’ and ‘The Simpsons’ grew on me each week, my curiosity was now piqued to watch a few episodes of ‘The Office’ and meet these wacko co-workers.
According to press notes, this touring production now playing at the CAA Theatre is also currently playing in the New York Off Broadway community. ‘The Office! A Musical Parody’ is the unauthorized parody of the hit TV show. I recall with fondness Canadian Rick Miller’s wonderful sendup of ‘MacHomer: The Simpsons do MacBeth’ when it played in Toronto several years. From what I understand according to Rick Miller, Matt Groening gave his permission for Miller to continue without threat of lawsuit or royalties. Has the same occurred here even though ‘The Office’ is no longer filmed?
My other question – would this unauthorized parody by writers Bob and Tobly McSmith be cheesy, corny, silly to the point where I would roll my eyes? I was hoping and praying not.
Anyway, my guest and I ventured to Dunder Mifflin, Scranton Pennsylvania’s third largest paper company. It’s a typical morning here in this office of paper, song and dance when for some unknown reason, a documentary crew begins filming the lives of the employees of Dunder Mifflin. It’s a typical monochromatic office setting thanks to the handiwork of Ryan Howell. Stage right is Pam’s reception desk. Stage left is the workspace area for Dwight and Jim. Boss Michael’s office runs along the back. The set is on wheels which allows for easy movement from one scene to the next. Thank goodness there is no squeaky wheel sounds as that would have driven me bonkers.
Let’s be honest – I had fun at ‘The Office A Musical Parody’. Yes, I smiled and laughed at some of the double entendres and innuendos that do take place in an office and/or school setting so thanks to the McSmiths for the laughs. There is no earth-shattering message or deep underlying subtext of the human condition. The workplace is simply what it is, an environment composed sometimes of wonderful people (whom Michael calls his family) and sometimes of numbskulls who should have had their rear ends fired the hell outta there. Kudos to director and choreographer Donald Garverick for keeping this vision in mind. Choreography was simple but that’s ok because the singing was quite good.
This opening night production moved at rapid speed and the audience (I’m assuming many were avid ‘Office’ aficionados) was on every single word spoken or sung. An audience member who was sitting next to my guest and I remarked how well this production incorporates what it could out of 9 seasons of the show so I will have to take this person at his word.
This Maxwell House coffee charged (definitely not decaffeinated) ensemble cast had great voices and are terrific belters of song. As the office boss Michael, Sarah Mackenzie Baron incorporated nice subtle touches of male smarmy bravado. Christian Fary as office geek Dwight is so whiny ingratiating to the point where you just want to smack him one. The white socks with Mr. Fary’s suit emphasize even more just how much of a geek Dwight must be. The office receptionist is the initial 30 second impression visitors receive and make of any firm. Madeline Glenn Thomas’s Pam is that professional, welcoming face we all want to see. Ms. Thomas has a lovely singing voice and there are some nice moments between she and her office love interest, Jim (played by a boyishly charming and flirtatious Patrick Constant).
Gabrielle Filloux’s office priss Angela is played to the hilt without going overboard so thanks to Ms. Filloux for recognizing this important fact. What happens to her cat is priceless. Tim Powers’ lanky sad sack Toby is endearing especially for the fact no one gives him the time of day (poor guy). Devina Sabnis is a sexy, gorgeous Kelly who knows when her job is done before she moves on. Kelsey Ann Sutton is impressive as opposite characters Phyllis and Meredith both in stature and voice.
There are some tuneful ditties in the production thanks to Assaf Gleizner’s Music and Orchestrations. I especially liked ‘That’s What She Said’, ‘Everyone Deserves a Trophy’ and ‘Acting Manager’. And yes, you will have to listen carefully to hear the double entendres and innuendo.
Nevertheless, the one element that I hope will be fixed as performances continue is the sound balance between the music and singers. At times, the music is extremely loud and drowns some of the singers and the jokes within the song.
Final Comments: A fun night at the theatre to the end of August. In these dog days of summer that have been extremely warm, why not venture downtown for some laughs?
‘The Office! A Musical Parody’ continues to August 25 at Toronto’s CAA Theatre, 651 Yonge Street, Toronto. For tickets, please visit www.mirvish.com or call 1-416-872-1212.
Photo of the Cast of ‘The Office! A Musical Parody’ by Russ Rowland
Running Time: approximately 2 hours with one 20-minute interval.
The Cast: Sarah Mackenzie Baron, Christian Fary, Patrick Constant, Madeline Glenn Thomas, Gabrielle Filloux, Tim Powers, Devina Sabnis, Kelsey Ann Sutton.
Book and Lyrics: Bob & Tobly McSmith; Music & Orchestrations: Assaf Gleizner; Scenic and Prop Design: Ryan Howell; Costume Design: Dustin Cross; Lighting Design Weston Wetzel; Sound Design: Matthew Fischer; Wig Design: Dee Spencer; Director and Choreographer: Donald Garverick.