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BWW Review: THE OFFICE HOLIDAY PARTY MUSICAL EXTRAVAGANZA SHOW at Renaissance Theatre Company

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A grown up, alcohol-fueled, interactive and immersive escape into the festivities of that often maligned, but underappreciated event – the annual office Christmas party.

BWW Review: THE OFFICE HOLIDAY PARTY MUSICAL EXTRAVAGANZA SHOW at Renaissance Theatre Company
The Cast

We have all been there. The work party that you feel compelled to attend, whether you want to or not, where some years it is just a bit of egg nog and polite conversation, and others it is a night to remember (or forget, depending on how much you have to drink). Regardless of which type of shindig your company puts on each year, the one being staged at Renaissance Theatre Company under the extensive title THE OFFICE HOLIDAY PARTY MUSICAL EXTRAVAGANZA SHOW probably has them all beat. This immersive musical experience, the second offering for the new theatre company which was founded earlier this year, is a whole lot of festive fun, and it successfully carves out a niche in the typical holiday theatrical offerings - a grown up, alcohol fueled, interactive and immersive escape into the festivities of that often maligned, but underappreciated event - the annual office Christmas party.

Written and Directed by Donald Rupe (Renaissance Theatre Company's Artistic Director), with Arrangements and Orchestrations by Jason M. Bailey, THE OFFICE HOLIDAY PARTY MUSICAL EXTRAVAGANZA SHOW lives up to the Renaissance Theatre Company's mission to create "new and original theatre in Central Florida and beyond". This immersive experience begins as soon as you walk into the lobby - staged as the entrance to the offices of Gripp and Pfister, a company that does, well, it's not that clear what it does, but that's not the point. You are given an alter ego before entering (I was dubbed "Mikey") and immediately treated like a beloved colleague or acquaintance of the employees gathered. The space inside the former warehouse that Renaissance Theatre Company occupies is set up like a small office - complete with cubicles, break area, kitchen, a conference room, and for the party, a stage and the ever-important bar (which, btw, stays open the entire show and afterwards too). After grabbing a drink (I recommend the Jingle Juice) you are invited to mingle before the party starts. This is where, as an audience member, you have a decision to make. You can choose a spot on the periphery and quietly sip your drink and observe, or you can jump in with both feet and play along with the cast. There's no pressure to get involved, but trust me, it is a lot more fun if you do. As an actor myself, I decided to dust off my improv skills and enter the theatrical fray and it made for one of the most enjoyable nights at the theatre in a long time.

BWW Review: THE OFFICE HOLIDAY PARTY MUSICAL EXTRAVAGANZA SHOW at Renaissance Theatre Company
Seth (Bruce Costella) and Jan (Kendall Leamy)

The course of the evening ebbs and flows, starting with an opening number welcoming all to the office party and then moving quickly into socializing, the office secret Santa gift swap, "performances" by employees, and party games. The musical numbers are all presented as part of the festivities, both planned and rehearsed numbers and spontaneous expressions of love (or hate) - depending on the performer and how much they have had to drink. It may sound a little jarring, but it works quite well, and it feels natural to go from audience member to pseudo-cast member and back - depending on what is going on. Donald Rupe's songs (with Jason M. Bailey's arrangements) are fun and functional, though perhaps not tunes you will leave humming. But in a way, that's ok - it makes the whole thing feel spontaneous, unrehearsed, and believable.

The cast of THE OFFICE HOLIDAY PARTY MUSICAL EXTRAVAGANZA SHOW is fabulous. Huge props to Mr. Rupe for bringing together such a talented group. Each person has very clearly spent a lot of time developing their story and they fill all the expected office tropes. There's the feisty HR director Karen (Karen Yvette Reid), bubbly and awkward secretary Jan (Kendall Leamy), nervous nice-guy Seth (Bruce Costella), loveable Charlie (Kyle Wilkinson), quiet but enthusiastic Christian (Natale Pirrotta), energetic social media manager Leslie (Joseph Quintana), IT guy Adam (Alex Roberts), and goth intern Amber (Esmeralda Nazario) just to name a few. Even the caterers and custodial staff are part of the fun. And depending on who you end up talking with during the party, your experience may vary. I recommend purposefully placing yourself in the path of as many cast members as possible to maximize your interactions. Some standout moments for this reviewer were the pitch-perfect Leigh Green as Sheila, the resident office Jewish person, who goes on a musical rant with "To Be a Jewish Girl At Christmas", Kristie Geng who gives a powerhouse (and side splitting) performance as drunken recent divorcee, Deborah, especially in her number "A Toast", devout (yet in denial) married couple Faith (Michelle Coben) and her stylist husband Finn (Blake Aburn), and David Lowe as pushover, Ed (or Ted, depending on who you ask) who delivers a heartfelt 11 o'clock number, "Happy".

The scenic design by Sarah Allen is well executed with even the smallest details considered. Jason M. Bailey's music direction comes through strongly in the performances (he accompanies on piano along with a small, but talented band). J. Marie Bailey's costumes are both believable and outrageous and Philip Lupo's lighting and Stephen Jones' sound designs are seamless and effective.

So, if you are looking for something completely different this holiday season, I highly recommend heading to Renaissance Theatre Company and joining your co-workers at Gripp and Pfister for THE OFFICE HOLIDAY PARTY MUSICAL EXTRAVAGANZA SHOW. It is unlike anything you have seen or done before and is guaranteed to be one of the funniest and most enjoyable office holiday parties you will ever attend. One can only hope that this becomes an annual tradition for Renaissance Theatre Company, as I can't wait to see what all my friends at Gripp and Pfister are up to next year. But just in case it doesn't, don't miss your chance to check out this fresh new production before it closes.

BWW Review: THE OFFICE HOLIDAY PARTY MUSICAL EXTRAVAGANZA SHOW at Renaissance Theatre Company
This reviewer having a blast with "co-workers" Charlie (Kyle Wilkinson), Amber (Esmeralda Nazario) and Christian (Natale Pirrotta)

THE OFFICE HOLIDAY PARTY MUSICAL EXTRAVAGANZA SHOW presented by Renaissance Theatre Company runs through December 19th, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 8pm. Tickets are $29. Proof of vaccination or negative COVID test required for entry. The Renaissance Theatre Company is located at 415 E Princeton St., Orlando, FL . Tickets can be purchased by visiting https://rentheatre.com/theofficeholidaypartymusicalextravaganzashow

Photos by Ashleigh Ann Gardner


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