Nataline Rine, Associate New York Critic
The soft glow of my partner’s smartwatch broke through the pitch darkness. 6:47pm. The sun was setting on July 14, but as we made our way downtown to see the much-anticipated “The Office: A Musical Parody,” lights suddenly snapped to vacancy, the hustle and bustle of Midtown shutting down in an instant as the unexpected power outage struck. As we made our way past hundreds of evacuated theatre-goers outside the countless darkened theaters in the area, I knew this was no joke: we had reached THREAT LEVEL MIDNIGHT.
Alright, that was an “Office” joke. But when I finally did get to the Jerry Orbach Theater rescheduled to a different night, hilarity ensued at “The Office;” the previous darkness of the city transformed effortlessly into dazzling lightheartedness. The hit TV show has captured the hearts (and memes, and merchandise) of a plethora of people of all ages, races, and interests, and the power of this musical parody playing in a small off-Broadway house bringing in as diverse of an audience as television should not be under-estimated in a sector of entertainment often cited for its lack of audience diversity and appeal. Over the course of 100 minutes, almost all nine seasons of the famous TV show are dedicatedly paid homage. Authors Bob and Tobly McSmith walk the tightrope between all the absurdity and lovability of the show plus rollicking new material that will have you cracking up on your way home (back to Netflix where you will inevitably want to continue watching).
The challenge of replicating such well-known and well-quoted characters beloved by a millennial fan culture is no small feat, but the cast assembled here is a team of comedy Avengers. Tom McGovern, playing double duty as Jim and Andy, is a standout with all the loveable quirks and ticks of the originals right down to facial expressions and vocal inflections having you crack up at every turn. As the more subdued receptionist Pam, Taylor Coriell displays a sweet voice and charm; however, as the love interest of Jim, the writing here served to remind me just how little Pam is a free agent or independent of that love plotline, as she doesn’t do much else except pine and serenade for love.
There are many office couples throughout the course of the show (TV and this parody), however, with side-splitting pieces written for Ryan (Katie Johantgen), Kelly, and Karen (both Ani Djirdjirian), that will have Office aficionados gasping for breath between laughs. With many actors playing multiple characters, costume design by Dustin Cross aided a quick turnaround rate for many comedic appearances, including a hilarious “Kimmy Schmidt” reference for Erin (a foil for Taylor Coriell’s Pam, it finally showed off her comedic prowess); countless costume props for Kat Moser’s hysterical Meredith, Phyllis, and Kevin; and a subtle cat collar and not-so-subtle black veil for a mourning (her cat) Angela.
Katie Johantgen has in my opinion the hardest track, wavering between the prim Angela and the stern Jan for most of the night, two difficult women when boiled down to two second appearances can seem too similar. Her real comedic shining comes with a character so opposite these strict women it’s hilarious—the easy-going and egregiously good-looking temp Ryan, played with all the cliché swag and carefree attitude one can muster. Dwight, played here with verve by Chase McCall, leaves more to be desired as his song for Dunder Mifflin takeover aspirations falls flat.
There is more able to be explored in one-on-one interactions in the TV show (or camera asides for that matter), than is able to be truly dived into in this incredibly fast-paced romp, but more time for Michael and Dwight’s antics would have elevated the parody beyond sweeping season generalizations. The arguably most famous of the bunch of characters, the affable, well-intentioned boss Michael Scott, is played with all the pzazz and heart akin to Steve Carrell (or Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory really) by the star-powered Sarah Mackenzie Brown, delivering energy and comedy through every twitch and blink.
Standout design work should also be applauded for this production, with an impeccably clever panel set by Josh Iacovelli and wickedly smart sound design by Matthew Fischer stealing the show (pre-show and intermission music all using songs from the TV episodes? Genius). Imbued with Broadway references from Hamilton to Dear Evan Hansen, plus other television references like “Kimmy Schmidt” or “Parks and Rec” from the TV stars’ later shows, “The Office! A Musical Parody” connects the heart of the beloved source material to the much-needed laughter of a 2019 audience stuck all too often in an often-times dark world.
THE OFFICE: A MUSICAL PARODY
“The Office! A Musical Parody” by Bob and Tobly McSmith is directed and choreographed by Donald Garverick. “The Office” stars Sarah Mackenzie Baron, Michael Santora, Tom McGovern, Taylor Coriell, Katie Johantgen, Kat Moser, Ani Djirdjirian, Matthew Krob, and Kevin Harris. Designers include Josh Iacovelli (Scenic), Alex Stevens (Lighting), Matthew Fischer (Sound), and Dustin Cross (Costume).
“The Office! A Musical Parody” runs at 1627 Broadway, New York, NY 10019 through Nov 10. Tickets are available on Ticketmaster.com or by calling the box office at 212-921-7862. Rush tickets may be available for $30.50 before each performance at the box office, limited availability. For more information, please visit http://www.theofficemusicalparody.com/.
Running Time: 105min (with intermission)
Picture by RUSS ROWLAND.