If you look around the world of musical theatre, things might be feeling a bit… familiar.
From Beetlejuice to Mean Girls to Groundhog Day, musicals are increasingly looking to classic movies and television for inspiration. And though it may seem from the outset like an easy way to make a quick buck, it’s actually a pretty novel way to get people interested in theatre. Especially if your source material is the most beloved sitcom of the 2000s.
The Office! A Musical Parody, which stops at the Barrymore Theatre on Feb. 13, takes the Steve Carell-starring NBC sitcom and transports it to the stage, courtesy of writers Bob and Tobly McSmith. It’s not their first foray into the world of sitcom musicals — they’ve also written unauthorized adaptations of Friends and Saved by the Bell, among others. And according to cast member Tim Powers, there’s an excitement that comes into taking on such revered material.
“Being a part of it is such a labor of love,” the 25-year-old says. “I know I have a lot of fond memories from when I was in school, binge-watching the episodes with friends.”Powers lives in New York City and has a master’s degree in opera and musical theatre from Arizona State. He plays two roles in the Office! production: HR rep/possible Scranton Strangler Toby Flenderson and wild card quality assurance man Creed Bratton. Despite being on opposite ends of the personality spectrum — Toby’s a wet blanket while Creed is legitimately deranged — they do have one thing in common.
“There’s something that’s just not quite right about both of them,” Powers laughs.
He is most enthusiastic about playing Creed. The ex-hippie, amateur mung bean-grower is one of the show’s biggest question marks. It’s difficult to get a read on what exactly is going on with Creed Bratton, the only character from the show who’s essentially playing a fictionalized version of himself, but Powers relishes it.
“I think my favorite part about playing Creed is that you don’t get a lot of answers to these questions.”
Each character’s many eccentricities are dialed way up in The Office!, which approaches the series through an even more absurd lens, sometimes breaking the fourth wall to craft its own meta-jokes. One of the sitcom’s most popular episodes, season 4’s “Dinner Party,” is turned into an elaborate dance number. They even do the Scarn, which Powers says audiences go crazy for.The Office! is his first touring musical, and according to Powers that’s true of most of his castmates, too. This means they’re charting new territory together, spending huge amounts of time on a bus. It’s allowed chemistry to grow among the performers, which is invaluable to a group of people trying to convince an audience that they’re all longtime coworkers.
“I was with my parents for the holidays,” says the North Carolina native. “And when I would talk about my castmates, they would say, ‘Wow, it seems like you’ve known them for a decade and not just the seven or eight months you’ve been together.’”
That sense of familiarity was integral to the success of The Office. It’s the pinnacle of hangout TV; each character feels like a close, personal friend. And while a musical parody of a close-knit, generally low-key mockumentary may seem like a stretch to some, Powers doesn’t see it that way. To him, it’s the next logical step.
“What I love about musicals is that it’s a stage where the emotions are so high in a certain moment that you can no longer speak it,” he says. “And throughout The Office the TV show they do have a lot of songs sprinkled in. It lends itself to those high emotional stakes. Doing a musical version of it, to me, just makes perfect sense.”
“The Office! A Musical Parody” is at the Barrymore Theatre on Thursday, Feb. 13.