Los Angeles theater isn’t Broadway. Nothing but Broadway is Broadway. But the energy inside the Montalban Theater for the one-night-only production of The Unauthorized OC Musical, (which sold out in 14 minutes) felt like a Broadway for millennials.
The stage was set with music stands and water bottles, and a band that played as much of a character, as any of the actors. A My Little Pony sat on stage left and a horse figurine on stage right. On the sides of the stage were screens that featured a rotation of stills from the series. And while this musical was unauthorized, series creator Josh Schwartz and producers Stephanie Savage and McG sat in the audience, along with a few cast members including Rachel Bilson, Kelly Rowan and Melinda Clarke. Meanwhile, Autumn Reeser (Taylor Townsend from the series) took her place on stage, playing Julie Cooper in the musical.
Other cast members of the musical included: Tilky Jones (from Nashville) as Ryan Atwood, Molly J. McCook as Marissa Cooper, Brendan Robinson (AKA Luke from Pretty Little Liars) as a creepily uncanny Seth Cohen and Greer Grammer (from MTV’s Awkward) as a perfect Summer Roberts. Even without Peter Gallagher’s signature eyebrows, Neil Hopkins from Lost played a convincing Sandy Cohen.
The show opened with trivia, and the cast encouraging the audience to “take out their phones and stay on them, just keep them on silent,” in order to Instagram and tweet about the show. (Is this the future of theater going?)
The audience’s energy was infectious. The seats were filled with all fans, fans who love this TV show so much, fans who used to spend their Saturday nights renting DVDs of The OC at Blockbuster Video, fans who spent hours at [Insert Your Local Trendy Boutique Here, Mine Was Called Wishlist #WestportCT] trying to replicate Marissa and Summer’s style, relishing in the nostalgia that was their high school experience.
The show focused on the script from the first episode of the series, while featuring all of your favorite songs from 2003 through 2007 (mostly Phantom Planet + The Mixed CD your high school sweetheart probably gave you). Songs included Phantom Planet’s “California,” obviously. (You can hear the cast sing it here.) Also included in the mix: Imogen Heap’s “Hide & Seek,” The Killers’ “Smile Like You Mean It,” and Oasis’ “Champagne Supernova.” Hearing these songs sung live lets you really take in the lyrics. Turns out, they have a lot in common with the show’s characters, acting almost like an inner monologue, or a soliloquy, as we call it in musicals.
But the best part of the show had to be hearing the stage direction—or action lines—read aloud from the original script. They are the words that you see come to life through casting and design on the screen, but never get the chance to read on the page, unless you’re part of the production. For example, the audience laughed when the Cohen’s opulent home was described as “the most expensive everything,” or how Seth was described as “attractive but awkward. A little too much Peter Parker without Spiderman.” And while the show’s cast had their scripts in front of them, the cast would step away from the page at certain points and act out scenes from “upcoming” episodes. The best part might have been at the end where they acted out a “next time on…” The crowd of fans went crazy seeing some of their favorite TV moments and lines performed.
Overall it was an incredible evening. I do hope they continue the show so if you’re in Los Angeles you can check it out. In the meantime, I’ll be listening to Phantom Planet on Pandora, and writing a letter to Netflix pleading them to stream the entire series. Seriously, Netflix, get on that.
(Images by the author/FOX)