The Office fails transition to stage in touring parody

Courtesy of The Office! A Musical Parody The cast of the original New York production stand at a recreation of the series’ iconic reception desk.

 

Courtesy of The Office! A Musical Parody
The cast of the original New York production stand at a recreation of the series’ iconic reception desk.

Colleen Hammond & Griffin Sendek | The Duquesne Duke

10/24/19

The Office! A Musical Parody was written for people whose entire personality centers around watching The Office.

Writers Bob and Tobly McSmith’s unauthorized parody of the hit television show graced the Byham Theater last weekend. This nonsense musical spectacle excellently showcased how a script consisting entirely of jokes can somehow fail to be the least bit funny.

Surrounded by an eruption of laughter, we found ourselves in the extreme minority of the audience, not laughing once.

The Office! A Musical Parody attempted to condense the plot of all nine seasons into two jam-packed hours. Watching it gave a sense of whiplash as plotlines were introduced and wrapped up within minutes. The majority of the characters were only given the time to be mere caricatures and not the multidimensional, endearing characters fans of the show have come to know and love.

It is obvious that the McSmith’s musical was made for those anywhere in their 3rd to 7th The Office rewatch. The pacing and structure of the plot were never meant to be the focus. The writers capitalized on the nostalgia factor of the show instead of crafting their own jokes.

Because of this lack of creativity, the writers heavily muddied their intentions. A traditional parody is meant to playfully mock another work, but instead, this production felt like a pathetic memorial to the glory days of The Office. The audience was clearly filled with Office fans, as most people neglected traditional theater attire for jeans and Office-themed T-shirts, so it seemed almost sacrilegious to mock the original TV hit. However, a parody is meant to tease and poke fun at the original text. From this perspective, the show was an utter flop.

This production seeks to spoof The Office but only serves to regurgitate the most memorable and funny moments from the TV show. Every joke is completely surface level and can effectively be summed up as “remember this scene? Remember when Michael Scott said this? That was funny, right?” This approach to the writing left the cast of characters with little more depth than the jokes they recited.

The Office was a memorable show for the original cast, and fans note the disappointment felt and the degradation in show quality once Steve Carell left the show after its sixth season. After Carell’s exit, it seemed that no one could fill his shoes or replace his comedic magic. That is how the entire musical felt. While the actors were very talented, it was apparent that they were  trained in musical theater with little experience in comedy. They belted powerfully but fell flat on the delivery of every single joke. While they were excellent performers, they could never fill the shoes of the comedic dream team original cast.

Expectations for the lighting design of this show weren’t high, but they were distractingly basic. The only creative lighting transitions throughout the musical were a cliche bright pink wash during romantic moments between Jim and Pam. Other than the occasional pinks, the lighting design was as barebones as it possibly could be, a simple lights up during scenes and lights down during transitions. It served their purpose, keeping the actors visible but did not go any further than that.

Moreover, the set was a nightmare. In all our years of theater, we had never witnessed scene changes that long and uncoordinated. Scene changes, especially in a fast-paced show, need to be clean and perfectly choreographed. Every actor seemed completely lost any time the set changed. Someone without any concept of design could have crafted this set in under ten minutes. The entire show came to a screeching halt when the set had to move. The transition between office and conference room dragged on endlessly in awkward silence.

Although there are multiple characters of color in the original show, this so-called parody made the absurd choice to only cast one person of color to play all remotely ethnic roles. The role of Kelly was originated on NBC by Mindy Kailing, who takes pride in her position as both the only female and only minority writer on The Office staff. To only cast one person of color in the entire show felt like a slap in the face. The parody even went so far as to erase the character of Stanley and Daryll, the two dominant African-American characters throughout the franchise.This made it clear to the audience that the representation of people of color was not a priority to the parody’s writers or casting directors.

Overall, the show was a disappointing and unnecessary remake of a beloved classic. From its pathetic writing to its lack-luster jokes, this show did not meet any of our expectations. We left the theater much like we left the final seasons of The Office: underwhelmed and not laughing.