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Sweeney Todd and The Office Meet in Andy's Play

By Edited Nov 15, 2013 0 0

When Andy Bernard, the naive Ivy Leaguer played by Ed Helms, first showed up on The Office, I found him pretty hard to take. After all, he seemed elitist and aggressive. But then he went to anger management, and he came back a changed man. Ever since, he's been one of my favorite characters. It doesn't hurt that he has a fantastic voice, and he shows it off as often as he can by belting out songs around the office. My favorite example of this was his guitar-and-banjo duet of John Denver's Take Me Home, Country Roads with Dwight in season five. But never has Andy's voice been on such display as in the latest episode of The Office, which bears the self-explanatory title Andy's Play.

Andy's play, as it turns out, is Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, the macabre musical about a barber who takes to the sea after a corrupt judge ruins his life and returns years later to exact his revenge. In the first scene, Andy and his fellow thespians, in full dress rehearsal regalia, burst into the office and perform the opening number, much to the confusion of most of the people there. Erin, demonstrating once again how out of touch she is, asks Andy if he wrote it. Um, no. That would be Stephen Sondheim.

Nobody really minds the strange interruption except the snippy Angela and the typically disgruntled Stanley, whose silent expressions of disapproval throughout the episode are consistently hilarious. Dwight is suspicious of musicals in general - "The last time I went to the theater a man dressed as a cat sat on my lap" - but Michael's response is wildly enthusiastic. Until, that is, he realizes that this is the play for which he auditioned and he's not in it. Ultimately, he goes to the performance to support Andy, but he can't help expressing his irritation at being overlooked at the same time.

Andy's Play is an odd episode, since the vast majority of it does not take place at the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin. Instead, despite the fact that most of Andy's fellow employees express disinterest in actually attending the performance, everybody troops to the theatre to see what it's all about. This means that we get to hear plenty of snippets of songs from the play, usually with Andy singing lead. Robert Mammana is the actor who plays Darrell's plumber, the man portraying Sweeney Todd, and he makes a big impression, especially in a hysterical scene in which just about everything that could possibly go wrong does.

This episode could serve as a sort of PSA for exactly what not to do when attending a theatrical performance. Don't leave your cell phone on after the curtain goes up (especially if you happen to be one of the people on stage!). Don't come into the theatre with balloons. Don't guzzle from a bottle of alcohol during the play. Don't bring a baby. Despite several disastrous interruptions, the performances themselves are pretty impressive. Even Dwight admits, "Women cannot resist a man singing show tunes. It's so powerful even a lot of men cannot resist a man singing show tunes." And Andy can really sing.

A few interesting revelations in this episode. Creed apparently moonlights as a theater reviewer for the local paper. High-five to my brother in the 'biz! Darrell plays a mean piano. It seems as if there would have been an opportunity for this to come up before, but if so, I don't remember it. He can really tickle those ivories. He also seems to be something of a theatrical connaisseur, as evidenced by his admonition to Michael to shush lest they miss the recurring musical themes introduced in the overture. He's such a blue-collar guy, it's funny to hear him waxing eloquent like that. Kinda reminds me of that commercial in which the man explains to his buddies who are over watching football what a duvet cover is. Oh, and Michael really likes Law and Order. Well, I guess I knew that. Still, I had no idea just how much...

Erin isn't really cut out to be a babysitter. Then again, in all matters, she strikes me as just about as clueless as Amelia Bedelia, that amusing easy reader character who finds it impossible to follow simple instructions. She certainly isn't very good at picking up on social cues. I missed a couple of episodes, so I don't know how it is that she and Andy broke up, but I think it's a shame. They really did seem like a good match. Still, there is reason to think that there's hope on the horizon in that regard.

It's always fun to take these characters and put them into a different setting for a change. Having all these oddballs together in the audience does seem like a recipe for chaos; maybe Andy should have anticipated that and tactfully suggested spreading themselves out a bit. Or was there only one performance of this show? Come to think of it, that may have been the case, since it seems that Erin missed her shot to see the play in its entirety, though I can't imagine putting on such a complex musical for only one night. Also, given how daffy Erin often seems to be, was I the only one worried that she might accidentally actually maim Andy with that razor when he was demonstrating to her the horrors of the barber chair?

I'll readily admit that I am a sucker for musicals, and since Sweeney Todd is a play that I was familiar with already, that made it all the more fun. It's also nice to showcase Andy's talent, since he so often comes off looking like a doofus. I hope the series continues to offer plenty of opportunities for us to hear his glorious voice, and I feel like this episode also opens the door for Michael to possibly participate in a future production. Now that I would love to see.



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