You can keep holding out hope that Steve Carell will eventually sign on for a reboot of “The Office,” or you can revisit the Dunder Mifflin golden days Off-Broadway this fall.
If you choose the latter, head into “The Office! A Musical Parody” understanding that the production is just that, a parody. The musical packs some of the comedy’s best bits into its two-hour run, but an exact replica of your sitcom favorites, this is not — nor is that its intent.
“You have to walk the line because some of your audience is going to be people who know the show backward and forward, and you must make sure you hit the right notes for them,” explains the show’s director, Donald Garverick. “But you also have to make sure the show tracks for those who don’t necessarily know it.”
On a stage set up like the inside of the Dunder Mifflin offices, Dwight (Michael Santora), Kelly (Ani Djirdjirian), Pam (Taylor Coriell), Meredith (Rebecca Mason-Wygal), and others, talk at the audience instead of the series’ "documentary" cameras. It opens with an intro “We Have Fun Here” musical number, and intermittent chimes of the classic “Office” theme song pop up throughout to remind you just exactly why you’re there — in case the paper company’s logo, a replica of Pam’s hand-sketched office drawing and a strategically placed CPR poster aren’t enough.
Sarah Mackenzie Baron, aka the World’s Best Boss, and Tom McGovern and Katie Johantgen, who play Andy and Angela, respectively, seamlessly slip into the roles once portrayed by their American TV counterparts.
But mirroring the work of Carell, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, Rainn Wilson, Mindy Kaling, etc., in the series isn’t the sole priority here.
The parody, from Tobly McSmith and Bob McSmith (no relation), the writers behind “Friends! A Musical Parody,” balances replication and mockery of the TV script as it takes viewers through the Dundies at Chili’s, that dinner party with Jan, endless Party Planning Committee meetings and Dwight’s short-lived reign as regional manager, among many others. If you have a favorite “Office” moment, trust us, it most likely finds its 5 minutes onstage in some capacity.
In typical McSmith style, some actors portray numerous characters, which, at times, causes moments of confusion. To avoid nudging your neighbor to figure out who’s who, brushing up on your “Office” one-liners before heading to the theater is a must. If you weren’t already a big fan before stepping into the theater, keep in mind you may be incredibly lost.
“There are scenes when nine or 10 characters walk on the stage and we only have seven actors,” Garverick says. “We have one costume change that’s only seven seconds long and they make it every night.”
Naturally, it wouldn’t be the story of Dunder Mifflin without a little romance. OK, a lot of romance. The production doesn’t skimp on the Jim/Pam build up and plays into the Angela/Dwight, Angela/Andy drama.
A few political and pop culture references whisk the script into 2018, including a notable appearance by a group of handmaids from Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
And a nearly forgotten Toby (Bob McSmith) is, of course, an unwelcome presence.
The production is currently playing at The Theater Center on Broadway, with dates available through December. Visit ticketmaster.com for tickets.