Every once in a while a sitcom comes along that tells an unforgettable story with an irreplaceable cast. Fans remember every single sub-plot, and can recite nearly every line of dialogue. Tackling an Office musical with unfamiliar faces is no easy task, but the gang at The Theater Center, NYC pulled it off flawlessly in this love letter to the show.
Details are everything. So when we walked into the small theater [The Jerry Orbach Theater located at Theater Center] for this Off Broadway production and heard pre-show tunes such as “We Didn’t Start the Fire” (Billy Joel) , “Gimme the Beat Boys” (Doobie Brothers), and “Umbrella” (Rihanna) I immediately knew we were in good hands. The set was a mirror image of the show’s including such subtleties as Pam’s painting, bobbleheads, jelly beans, and more. Expectations were already rising, but I had to see if the cast could pull this off.
I can honestly say every single one of the performers wow’ed the crowd. Many actors took on dual (or more) roles, and I wasn’t sure how well it would work with an ensemble show like this. Well let me tell you, it was beyond perfect. Everyone was absolutely fantastic but here are a few notable standouts:
Tom McGovern (Jim, Andy) absolutely embodied Jim to a “T.” Not only was his delivery perfect but his mannerisms were spot on. His chemistry with another standout, Taylor Coriell (Pam, Erin) was the heart of the show. McGovern also played Jim’s complete opposite, Andy Bernard, and crushed it. The dude even came out and legit played the banjo. Bonus points for that.
Speaking of multi-tasking, the bass player for The Office: A Musical Parody band, Kevin Harris also jumped up on stage as Stanley/Darrell to deliver quick one-liners, then promptly jumped back into the band section. It was great. They really tried to fit every character from The Office into this show and it didn’t feel forced at all. In fact, keep an eye out for some other minor character appearances/references along the way.
Rebecca Mason-Wygal (Phyllis, Meredith, Kevin and others) immediately had me convinced she was legit Meredith from the TV series and made me super uncomfortable at least twice. Her Phyllis impression was also spot on.
I thought Ani Djirdjirian was a real standout as well. She brought Kelly to the stage flawlessly, and her singing was absolutely fantastic. She also played a great Oscar, and puts an interesting spin on the Karen Filipelli character.
Katie Johantgen was fantastic as Angela, and absolutely loved her as Jan. Great singer as well.
Now taking on the role of Steve Carrell’s Michael Scott is a no-win situation in my mind. His ability to make us love him and hate him while being embarrassed for him (while rooting for him?) was brilliant.
Sarah McKenzie Baron took to the task to play one of my all time favorite characters, and she did it well. Baron enthusiastically captured Michael’s attempt to be the class clown and everyone’s friend. She delivered nearly all of his classic lines and really brought a high energy, fast-paced performance.
My one hope was that they would dive a little bit more into the things that made Michael more endearing to us but the pace of the show did not allow for it, as it essentially crammed nine seasons worth of our favorite sub plots into an almost two hour show. It was the right call.
The show takes some liberties to make all the shows various plots fit together and it works. It’s slightly more of an R-rated version of The Office which is perfect for a parody. One of my favorite scenes is when Ryan enters and Kelly and Michael simultaneously sing a love song to him.
Another great moment that had the crowd cheering is when Erin enters with a bright spotlight on her and the Kimmy Schmidt intro melody (parody) rings out. It was magical. Lots of great moments like this that continuously break the fourth wall.
The show is straight, fast-paced comedy that explores nearly all (and I mean ALL) of the favorite moments from The Office. Just like the show there is some real heart sprinkled in, involving the will they, won’t they love stories and everyone saying goodbye to the office. I even saw a few tears in the audience.
I’ll say this a must see for any fan of The Office. It’s a home run of a date night too — just saying. Even though I didn’t know what to expect, it left me extremely satisfied and smiling…that’s what she said!
Rating: 9 out of 10
– Rob Crowther IV